I’ve been in inpatient treatment for just over one month now. I came to the realisation fairly early on in this admission that putting on a bit of make-up every morning to make myself feel slightly more human is most often a pointless task.
But not because I’m giving up on myself…quite the contrary, actually.
It’s often become pointless, because I’m finding that even tiny little things keep making me unexpectedly ball my eyes out. Trying to keep my face on at the same time as working out what the waterworks are all about has definitely felt a bit like ‘pissing into the wind’.
Last Wednesday, I looked at my meal plan for the day first thing in the morning, as I’ve been in the habit of doing. No more increases today, and the menu appeared slightly less threatening than it had done the days prior. I felt determined it was going to be a (relatively, mind you) positive day, and that I wouldn’t spend the entire day feeling like my insides were being put through a mangle. I was awake fairly early, so thought I’d face the day with my slightly better face on. Nothing major, just some concealer, bronzer, and some, unfortunately, non-waterproof mascara.
Rachel is a massive crier at the best of times. She cries at lots of things. She’s a “major weeper”, to quote Jude Law in The Holiday (a fave Christmas movie).
I firmly believe that, for me, this emotionality is very healthy. I cried watching Wild Child for the first time. I even remember crying watching the most ridiculous and badly-directed film ever made, which consisted of a young boy’s father dying in a car crash but coming back to life as an animated SNOWMAN. This weeping tendency over the years has put me into the habit of buying waterproof mascara, just in case of an unforeseen sob-fest.
The woman upstairs, however, has functioned a bit like a dry sponge in my eyes, gag over my mouth and a cord around my heart for the past year or so. Painful emotions, as well as many good ones, have frequently been suppressed for long periods of time by her ruthless, totalitarian regime.
I had gotten very used to feeling totally numb to much of the world all of the time. So much so, that I ended up buying my current mascara stick on a special offer in Boots…and, yep, it’s bog-standard, non-waterproof, and black.
I made it through that Wednesday breakfast fairly unscathed. Morning snack saw a few tears but nothing to do too much damage. Lunch, and afternoon snack were conquered with comparable ease to some of the days prior. (Yes, in this place, the regime is also very strict – eating your prescribed meal-plan six times a day is the bare minimum expectation.)
However, when I entered the dining room for the fifth time that day to face dinner, my eyes became something of a pair of metaphorical water balloons. The pin? A bowl of tortilla chips.
My ocular floodgates opened, and alas, as did my nasal cavities. The next thing I knew I was hysterical, and suddenly there were snot globules in my bowl of chilli and mascara dregs all over my tortilla chips. Unfortunately, neither of these added to the flavour.
I have cried a lot like this over the past few weeks. Granted, crying over a bowl of tortillas is not exactly normal behaviour, and I certainly intend to put that behind me. But, I have cried for many other reasons, too. And, more importantly, I have felt other emotions that have been unfamiliar of late.
Many of these emotions have, perhaps unsurprisingly, been less pleasant ones, as I tackle the woman upstairs by doing the exact opposite of what she dictates and then have to sit with the consequences.
But, I have felt glimpses of other things, too. Glimpses of excitement. Of eagerness. Of interest in things I used to love but had forgotten all about. Glimpses of nostalgia, of longing…and of hope.
At the weekend, one of my best friends came to visit and she brought me a new mascara. Waterproof. I shed a few tears that day. Not tears of sorrow, but of joy, because I miss my friends so much and I wouldn’t be going through this again without their support, love and graciousness towards me which is so undeserved. The inner 'little Rachel' who is stood by herself in the school playground with a chewed cardigan sleeve still can't quite believe she actually has friends.
The 4-week menu cycle here means that tortilla chips will raise their triangular heads again soon enough. Since that first full fateful Wednesday, I have had to tackle things far greater than I ever thought possible. Sticky-toffee pudding, buttered toast, cheese sandwiches, four Weetabix at a time…the list goes on. Given this, I’m feeling more confident as my second chilli night approaches. It’s quite remarkable how much is possible when you’re thrown in the deep end and have no choice but to swim.
Nevertheless, this Wednesday I will be applying my new waterproof mascara before facing the dining room. Because with refeeding comes refeeling, and at the moment, we must be prepared with reinforcements.
“Numb the dark and you numb the light.”