abnormal psychology

too much.

i am five years old and i am psychotic for the first time, words spilling out of my mouth, rambling on and on, letters uneven, some backwards, when i write: and then i cryed and my unicorn teers heled stefiny

the other kids whisper, they laugh. i am too young to connect the dots, between the way they look at me and the way my books get pushed off my desk day after day, the way i sit alone at recess (distracting myself by singing gibberish words of Divine Importance), the way they find insults scrawled onto a desk in the back. i do not draw connections, not yet, between the way my teacher hisses “quiet hands” like a threat and the way i get yelled at for getting distracted by ant colonies during phys ed and the way i never quite learned how to whisper and the way nobody seems to want to talk to me. i know, somehow, that i’m doing something wrong, or else that other people are–but what?

i am confused. i am blindfolded, walking in circles, hopelessly lost, trying my hardest with no results, over and over again.

i thought that, as soon as i could just figure out what was happening, why this was happening, i would be able to fix things. i could just be less weird, or i could just distance myself from the people hurting me, and then everything would be okay.

i didn’t know, not yet, that finding out why would, in many ways, make everything so, so much worse. even if i did know, i had a blind curiosity and naivete at the time that would have propelled me straight into the trainwreck anyway.

looking back, it seems inevitable. this world was not built for a crazy girl.

 

 

too much.

i am 11 years old and i have figured it out. i am too loud, can’t whisper; gotta stop talking. too distractible; so, stop paying attention to anything, stop thinking, let my mind go blank and far away while my mouth parrots the right words. other people don’t like me; so, i have to get away from them, don’t talk to them. i fidget too much, hands twirling in the air, mouth always chewing on cloth or hair or paper; i try to stop fidgeting, fail; discover it is more acceptable to chew skin and fingernails, start doing that, let my fingertips get rubbed pink raw and stained reddish brown because at least i won’t be as weird anymore. i am lumbering, clumsy; my voice in chorus is a loud alto. gotta fix that. i starve myself, walk on my tiptoes, sing as quietly and high as i can. i start existing as we, but keep it hidden, keep up the performance. i am a girl, i am nothing, i am certainly not people.

(did i know then that i would, four years later, struggle with standing up and losing my breath, or get told when auditioning for a solo that they can’t hear me and be overwhelmed with shame because i’m singing as loud as i can, or try to gather up the courage inside me to tell my mom who i am and then chicken out again and again and wish i didn’t, or hate the way my voice gets me ma’am-ed? no. of course not. all i knew is that i was too much, and i needed to get rid of it, and if that meant i had to get rid of myself then by god i was going to try. i didn’t consider what would happen if i wanted my self back, if i wanted to take up space or exist in this world, because i thought i never would. i didn’t think i would ever want anything again. want is selfish, want is repulsive, want is disgusting.)

and it makes sense–it’s not an unreasonable position. far from it, it’s the logical continuation, the obvious extension of what everyone had been telling me. they tell me, “be quieter, be more ladylike,” so i train my voice. simple. easy.


(it’s not easy. i tell everyone it is easy. i try, as hard as i can, to make it look easy. it is the hardest thing i have ever done. but since i was able to tell you i was fine, then it must be true.)

if you pretend, for long enough, that you do not want, that you do not crave anything, that you do not even need anything to live–not love, not food, not communication, not blood, not even air–eventually you come to fear your own desires. but however much you teach yourself to fear yourself, you never disappear. you can train your body to panic and scream and tear itself to shreds, but you can never stop your mind from wanting.

 

 

too much.

that was her excuse when i tried to tell the guidance counselor what was going on.

i believed her.

 

 

too much.

i am a teenager and i am queer. i am a teenager and i am queer and i want touch and pain and intimacy. i know i am dirty/gross/wrong/bad/evil/predatory/objectifying/sinful. i know, at this point, that i cannot just make myself stop. monster, i call myself, voice vengeful. irreparable evil. original sin.

 

 

too much.

i learned my lessons well. i have been taken to the hospital three times by now but each time i managed to be articulate and smart and relatable enough to avoid getting kept there for longer than an hour or two. i am quiet, i am polite, i am very good at acting normal–no matter what.

i am still not good at being normal, because i am not normal, and i know at this point that i never will be, that all of my efforts are for nothing.

everyone else looks at me and sees a tiny, quiet girl, voice high and whispery–two inches shorter than she should be, growth stunted by malnutrition, but two inches taller than the doctors told me i would be after a year and a half of my starvation diet, wearing a hoodie, black to hide stains from being a chronically messy and chaotic person, hood pulled up to hide from the world–and they cannot see how someone like me could want like i do.

they cannot see how this is overcompensation, trying to keep my exterior quiet and neat because i’m afraid of people seeing my interior, my interior that is too weird and too crazy and too overbearing and too messy and too needy; always, always in excess.

i learned my lesson early: if/when they do see, they recoil. freak. they tell me: stop that. get small again. get quiet. that’s what you’re supposed to be. so i listen. i am a very good listener. very obedient. well-trained.

my weakness has always been caring too much.

 

 

too much.

i do not know how to handle a friendship that is not overflowing, bursting at the seams with feeling. when i try, i make accidental, careless wounds; a misspoken word, a yelled confession, a clumsy trip that pulls them down with me. i do not mean to hurt anyone, but beneath all my guards i am a feral cat, full of claws and teeth and fear. and then i hurt someone, and in that moment i know that i was right. monster. stay in hiding next time.

and so i do.

“but you didn’t do anything wrong” not this time. not this time. but i have. i will. won’t we all? and maybe you don’t think i did anything wrong but there are so many differences of opinion about that, really

“why do you feel bad? it’s just thoughts” thoughts are enough to me. i can train my face and hands and voice, but i can never stop my thoughts. the thoughts are the bad part, really, they’re the part that bleed through accidentally when my emotions get too strong and my mask slips. (thought-action fusion, they write. magical thinking)

i try. i try. i try. but my friends and i, we are screaming. we are wild.

 

 

too much.

(forgive me father for i have sinned.)

my self-flagellation took on a religious fervor. there are two reasons for destroying yourself: as punishment, and as relief. what started as an overflow for when i could not help but spill slowly but surely became its own punishment and its own reward, desire and pain and self-hatred, all in one. unable to talk, at war with myself, my body became my battleground, each battle both lost and won at once. my bodily fluids, a source of shame from the moment i was first called crybaby, the only way i can reliably communicate when words seem impossibly far away, intermingle, spilling over the bathroom floor, my blood and pus and vomit mixing with my tears and cum.

(the three populations at highest risk for self-harm: young women with a history of trauma. prisoners. captive animals.)

 

 

too much.

the third time i went to the hospital, i was psychotic again. the body was catatonic, utterly still, undemanding, yielding to the force of others; and yet my still, compliant body said what years and years of a compliant mouth never could. when i was there, i was not in danger, not like i had been so many times in the past.

i did not know how to ask them: where were you when i needed you? why do you care more about my lack of response then you did about my pain? why do you direct your ire towards the girl with a mind on fire, excited or pacing or frozen and distant, and then smile and nod when she learns to hide? why do you worry now, and not when i have the knife in my hand, not when i am sobbing, not when i am starving, not when i am withdrawn and suicidal and destructive? do you even worry, or do you just look at my still frame with the same condescending hiss at the disruption to the class that you did when i was five? why do you only care about this girl is too much and approve of this girl is destroying herself in her quest to be less? why am i fifteen years old and trying to grow but too afraid of being too weird? why do you only care about what you see in me and never think to care about who i actually am?

why did you encourage her to destroy herself, and then bring her to the hospital when she obeyed?

i did not ask them this. i willed my mouth to be good. i told them a half-truth: a history of seizures, a cocktail of medications.

they sent me home.

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everything in this forest

Jupiter ♃: I want to touch.

Jupiter ♃: I want to be touched.

Jupiter ♃: I want to hurt.

Jupiter ♃: I want to be hurt.

Jupiter ♃: And if you feel the same way, you’re as bad as me.

 

 

Josie–her name was Josie, and we were four years old.

 

And she was my second friend, the first one I chose, and she humiliated me, and that’s how it was. That’s how I would be allowed to be her friend. And I was okay with it, and I told my mom over and over again, she is my best friend, and I want her.

 

Friendship is hurt, closeness is hurt, intimacy is vulnerability, love is pain. I learned these lessons in my bones. From as far back as I can remember I knew them.

 

Some people, when learning these lessons, decide to make themselves invulnerable, isolated, strong; I did the opposite. I decided that the love was worth it, every single damn time.

 

 

My memories after that are fragmented into bits, shattered glass pieces of my life that dig into me when I try to get too close. I wasn’t with Josie anymore, but I was with–I don’t know. I was with more people, more girls who are like her. Girls who are in my fifth period, now, who I stare at all period with tunnel vision and fear until the bell rings, and I am late in my homework because I am distracted and my breath stutters whenever she looks back at me because what if it starts again, and she was my friend.

 

 

The friend I talk about most on this blog tried to kill me, once, and I talk about that a lot. I don’t know if she meant to do that, but she did, and she did a lot more, too.

 

But what hurt me the most, what I remember the most, what made me truly, unbearably suicidal, it wasn’t that pain–physical and mental–she inflicted on me every day. It was the loneliness that came with her leaving and taking all of my friends with her, the whispers she spread through the school: don’t touch her, don’t be friends with her, don’t talk to her, ever… That was what broke me. I would go up to her and beg–you can do whatever you want with me, I promise, I’ll do anything, just be friends with me again. Love me. Come back.

 

And she said, “What do you mean? I’m not doing anything to you,” and she rolled her eyes at me and tossed her hair and turned her head away, and she would laugh at me and everyone would laugh with her, and that cut deeper than every lie, every fist thrown, every time she implied that I was ugly and worthless.

 

(And I couldn’t talk about that, for a long time, because, well. Not talking to someone–that’s not abuse. It’s normal. It’s fine. Attempting to kill someone, that’s bad, but bullying? exclusion? No. Of course not. Use whatever words you want, but make sure to shut me up. That’s just elementary school drama, no big deal. I’m making inappropriate comparisons. I’m trivializing things. I’m not supposed to have this experience, these feelings. I’m inconvenient. I’m not supposed to exist.)

 

 

I learned to love pain in seventh grade. Sure, I felt it before then, banging my head against walls in elementary school, scratching at my arm to try and draw blood, finally cutting myself with scissors and safety pins in sixth grade. But I didn’t love it until seventh grade: in the bathroom of my room, with a pink disposable razor, cutting it up until I could get the blades out. Waiting, baited breath, and then–slice–and then I could feel calm, and happy, and safe, and okay, my brain sparkling with light, and I fell in love. I cut myself almost every night; I do not regret it. I don’t cut anymore, but it made me happy, and kept me alive, and my scars are one of the only parts of my body that feel like me.

 

 

I remember being in kindergarten, dreaming–during the day and at night–of gore, of torturing my best friend, of betrayal, of deadly diseases and parasites that eat you from the inside out, and feeling the dread and bile rising in my throat and playing pretend with Maddie and playing the villains every time, feeling the sick want together to torture, to take apart, to take over.

 

I remember sometime in middle school: crying, screaming it can’t be THAT bad; and no, it’s worse; seriously, what did you do? i promise it’s not as bad as you think; i slapped him–i slapped a kindergartener–i slapped maddie’s little brother. And it was as bad as I thought, and all of my worst fears came true, and I almost killed myself that night, and my mom stayed up all night to lecture me but also to make sure I didn’t die.

 

I remember learning what sex was in sixth grade, and immediately, vivid thoughts paralyzed me, dreams and dreams and dreams, of gore and torture and betrayal and parasites and mutilation and then sexuality was added into the picture and getting aroused by it and concluding that I was irreparably, irredeemably evil.

 

I remember asking to hold my girlfriend’s hand, and she wasn’t ready, and she had been sexually abused by three different people by that time, and I asked as gently as I could if I could hold her hand, told her that I knew she didn’t want to be kissed and that I would never ever kiss her because of that but that I thought she was beautiful and I kind of wanted to kiss her for that, and she had a panic attack. And if that was enough to hurt someone–then my true self must be an unspeakable sort of evil.

 

I remember hearing that my existence is a trigger to one of my internet friends and relapsing. I remember reading about Scott Aaronson, and crying, and crying, and crying, and having a screaming panic attack where my mom tried to hold me down to keep me from hurting myself.

 

I remember hurting myself to punish myself for the fact that people out there are hurting worse.

 

I remember being a crazy, self-hating child. I remember being a queer freak, an outcast in a world that didn’t want me. I was raised on stories in which I was the monster, and I was at once afraid of that and sure of its truth. I was lonely, and I was reaching out, begging for love in the only language I knew: pain. Look, I cried, look at me, I can hurt you, or I can hurt myself, and won’t you see me then? won’t you love me?

 

But I stayed invisible, and I stayed alone.

 

 

I have feelings that I’m not supposed to have. When my close friend confessed to being a cutter, I wasn’t horrified–I was joyful (and my conscious guilt and horror over that secret joy was what propelled me into a year-long unhealthy relationship with her). I get aroused or find solace in things I’m told are degrading or disgusting.

 

 

In group therapy, a girl confides about her experiences with street harassment and sexual violence, and my first thought is: Why can’t that happen to me?

 

I have never been afraid of rape and I have never been harassed on the street for one simple reason: I’m unlovable, psycho, an ugly not-girl not-boy monster. And I would take that pain, the anguish, the soul-crushing trauma, over this–over being alone, unwanted, unloved.

 

 

Hurting someone, or being close to someone, involves closeness. Intimacy. And often I mean this in the physical sense–to choke someone, to rape them, to break their bones one by one, you have to touch them. As someone who spent their childhood undesirable, the children scattering, running away, nobody willing to spend recess with the weird girl, I took friends who punched me, who drowned me, who threw me to the ground, who twisted my wrist, because at least they would touch me. And sometimes I don’t–rape also goes hand-in-hand with sex, seen by many as an expression of love; psychological torture requires a knowledge of the most intimate workings of the victim’s mind; betrayal requires an initial trust and closeness. And I took friends who lied to me, who betrayed me, who gaslit me and insulted me, because at least they would talk to me.

 

 

As someone who spent a childhood being hurt and an adolescence hurting myself in fear of hurting someone else and a lifetime of not knowing that love and pain are even different things, of course I’m in love with pain. Of course I see it and love as so overlapping to be almost indistinguishable. Of course I want to say to someone I love “please, hurt me, love me and touch me, cut me and kiss me and let my brain sparkle with endorphins.” Of course I want to be able to take the power back, to be the one to hurt other people, and to be in control of it–for it to be something they like, instead of it being something that hurts them (a stupid decision or an accident or irrefutable proof that I’m a monster). Of course I want to be able to control the way other people hurt me–to say “please, touch me, hurt me”, and to have them listen, but also to say “stop hurting me, please, leave me alone” and to have them listen.

 

But I shouldn’t feel these things. I know. I know.

 

So I apologize for existing again. I make myself a little bit smaller, a little bit more ignored, a little bit less seen.

 

But I can’t stop myself from feeling, from wanting.

 

 

Jupiter ♃: But if it’s only what I feel inside that matters, what am I supposed to do?

Jupiter ♃: I can’t stop that kind of touch.

(nobody ever told me they can lie)

gaslighting (v)

the practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false

 

The majority of childhood abuse victims meet the criteria of at least one mental disorder.

The majority of people who live with mental illness have been abused.

 

When you google “abuse mental illness”, you get articles about how domestic abuse is a very common problem in individuals with mental illness and mental illness linked to violence and does mental illness cause abuse.

 

They are abusing us and they are telling us that we are the abusers, and then they go on to talk about victim blaming and how it is terrible and you should never do it, and they do it all without a trace of irony in their voice, because they believe it. They believe that they are not blaming victims, because we’re not victims, we’re monsters.

 

 

150 mentally ill people are killed by hospitals every year.

 

Countless more are tortured. Do you know what it’s legal to do to us?

 

Probably not, actually.

 

It’s legal to kidnap us. It’s legal to tie us to a bed for days at a time, even if we’re nonviolent, because ‘acting weird’ means we must be dangerous. It’s legal to shock us 5,000 times in one day for things like “being afraid”, “talking to ourselves”, “saying no”, “twitching involuntarily”, and “crying”. It’s legal to starve us to get us to obey you. It’s legal to force feed us medication that hurts us; it’s legal to do so by injecting it in while we cry and scream and struggle.

 

Remember: it is legal to torture someone with PTSD for having PTSD. Many places say that it is necessary, that it is the closest to a cure we have.

 

It is illegal to kill us, at least on purpose, but it was probably just an accident, it’s not their fault that they didn’t listen when their patient said the ties were suffocating them, it’s not their fault that they beat us and held us down because we were acting weirdly. When our parents kill us, they get sympathy: it must have been so hard, they say, having someone like that as a child, no wonder they snapped.

 

I call bullshit.

 

 

I used to flap my hands and grin and pace and jump up and down when I get excited, when I got happy.

 

My mom told me to sit down, because “when you do that, you look, you know…”

My teacher told me “quiet hands” when I fidgeted.

My friends told me “you look retarded” when I rocked back and forth during a panic attack.

 

And the thing is, fear doesn’t cure people, but it makes them hide things from you and get steadily worse until one day they can’t hide it anymore.

 

 

When you tell a mentally healthy eight year old, “crying is overreacting to your best friend trying to kill you, you’re being oversensitive, you’re probably just making everything up to hurt her and get attention, you’re being selfish, or else you’re delusional and it’s all fake” you are generally agreed to be an abusive asshole.

 

When you say the same thing to a deeply disordered eight year old, you are generally agreed to be right.

 

It’s agreed that mentally ill people can have things like emotions that are too intense for the situation, a strong desire for attention, delusions and hallucinations, a poor memory, meltdowns, bursts of anger, and a blurry distinction between real or not real.

It is not agreed that mentally ill people are people and therefore are, in fact, sometimes legitimately hurt.

 

 

When I had a psychotic break and ended up in the nurse’s office, they called me “profoundly manipulative” for being too afraid to talk to them or drink the water they offered me.

 

When I went into the guidance counselor’s office to tell them how my friend was hurting me, they asked her for her side of the story and then agreed that I was the one in the wrong, and that I should be made to apologize to her for hurting her feelings.

 

See, my story’s not a story where I’m allowed to hurt, and if I’m not the victim then I must be the monster.

 

 

I have a petrifying fear of being angry, of being mean, of being the monster that everyone believes I am.

 

My class made fun of gay people. They said I wish it were the 60s, so I could beat gay people up without getting in trouble. Society now is just too accepting.

I almost got angry, but I was so afraid of hurting their feelings that I had a 7-hour panic attack instead, apologizing over and over for being gay and existing, in between tears and shakes and fast shallow breathing.

 

I let people abuse me, because I was taught, this is how you make friends with someone. From the time I was 4, I always let my best friend hurt me. I would do anything to make other people happy, and if they were mad at me I would never get mad back. I made myself become whatever everyone else wanted, and if it lapsed, even for a second, I would hate myself for it.

 

I’m supposed to forgive my abusers, it helps healing, everyone says that, but how can you forgive someone you were never mad at?

 

 

What I’m trying to say is that 250 mentally ill people were shot in America by police last year for the crime of being mentally ill (and often black, too, because rapists and school shooters get peacefully taken and their victims blamed, but if you dare to exist when you’re not supposed to then you get shot), and it is generally agreed that murderers are psychotic thugs, what I’m trying to say is that when a mentally ill person is afraid of the government they are experiencing a delusion of persecution (or obsessive thoughts or excessive anxiety).

 

 

I told my friend what she did to me. My friend asked her for her side of the story and she threatened me until I said that she had done nothing and that I was just delusional.

 

And the definition agreed, because nobody seems to realize that the victim was delusional and the victim is lying about being abused are, in fact, different things. Most of the time, they’re opposites.

 

 

She could have told me that the sky is green and I would have believed her.

She told me she was a fairy queen and I believed her.

She lied all the time, every conversation I had with her was peppered with it, from things as small as the breed of her dog and the type of watch she owned to things as big as who I was, and I always believed her.

I wasn’t allowed to question her or else she’d hurt me.

But I never questioned her, because I believed her, because she took my hallucinations and told me that they were real and that there was more, and that it all meant that she was better than me, and I believed her completely.

But that’s not brainwashing or convincing me that my reality is fake, because I was mentally ill so it was.

I was delusional, so that means she had done nothing.

 

 

It wasn’t abuse, either:

You abuse people when you hurt them.

And I may have been hurt, but I wasn’t a person. So it didn’t count.

 

 

And what I’m trying to say, is that the definition of gaslighting doesn’t include mentally ill people.

We can be hurt by it.

But we don’t count.

Because we never count.

 

 

I passed out in french class after starving myself for months because I had a friend with anorexia and I didn’t think I deserved to eat if she wasn’t, because she mattered and I didn’t.

They hear her story, of her abuse, and agree that it is abuse, because it was terrible and cruel and the police were involved and she hasn’t been a virgin since second grade.

They hear my story, and decide that since it is different (since different means defective means broken means not worth it) it doesn’t count.

 

 

We’re always told that to be perfect we have to be good and pretty and nice.

We can’t be angry at the people who hurt us; we must always put everyone else above ourselves; we must always cover up any bad emotions or else we won’t be pretty, because caring and loving and existing are all worse crimes than actual violence.

 

 

What I’m trying to say is, we are hurting so much.

What I’m trying to say is, why is it decided that our hurt doesn’t count?

 

 

What I’m trying to say is that when they tell us your hurt doesn’t count, when they tell us you don’t count, they are telling us that our reality is mistaken, is false, they are telling us that our understanding doesn’t matter.

But that doesn’t matter because they wrote a neat little escape clause into the definition: abuse is only abuse when it happens to people we like.

 

 

(Can your compassion extend to someone you are not told deserves it?)

 

 

What I’m trying to say is this:

Every time they say “your hurt doesn’t matter, they are the ones that are hurting you.