‘It’s not that you’re not a lovely person, you’re just very intense’
‘You can’t be messaging me constantly. You need to move on’
‘I’m sorry. You’re just not the kind of person anyone would have a stable relationship with’
Clingy. Needy. Dramatic. Emotional. Embarrassing. Obsessive. Crazy. Since I was 13 I’ve been called all of these names. My ‘love life’ (or rather, absence of it) has been defined by a series of debilitating attachments to partners who could tolerate me in the short-term, but soon became tired of my struggle to control my mental health issues.
It’s difficult for me to say this because I don’t fully believe it, but I’m going to say it anyway. This isn’t my fault.
My adolescent and teenage years have been largely blurred into one fog of severe depression and self-hatred. As a kid, I was bullied for being ‘nerdy’ and unattractive. I had funny round glasses and curly hair and I wore matching clothes with my siblings literally until I was in secondary school. I felt like I was always on the outside of friendship groups, always a squeaky voice trying to get a word in edge ways, and always being elbowed out of the picture.
When I was in Year 5 (so 9 or 10 years old), I started having frequent panic attacks about dying. I would be staring into space and suddenly, for the first time, be so aware of my own mortality. That this was it. That one day it’s going to be nothing. That there’s no back-up plan, and I’m essentially alone. I remember crying in bed with my sister on the lower bunk and me on the top and me saying ‘If there is another life after this, do you think we would ever see each other again?’.
Around this age I also had a close friend who had come to live in Nottingham for a few months whilst his parents worked here. He was from Sweden and he couldn’t speak English very well, and I spent almost all of my time at school with him when he was there. When he left, I was really upset. I realised that I would probably never see him again. I began to worry about when the ‘last time’ I would speak to each of the important people in my life would be.
And then of course, comes the worst parts. The parts that I try not to remember, but sometimes hit me when I’m about to fall asleep, or I’ve just woken up, or I’m walking alone and suddenly my thoughts go into overdrive.
How is it possible to know how to have a healthy relationship, when your whole adult knowledge of ‘love’ has been based on the objectification of your own body?
It would be easy to hate the people who treated me so badly. It would be easy to blame them for what I’ve become. But it would be pointless. From the older ‘boyfriend’ who pressured me into having sex when I hadn’t even started my period and had no idea how sex even worked, to the friends that spread round the school that I was a ‘slag’ for coming to them in distress about this. The casual assault in the classroom with teenage boys putting their hands up my skirt and groping my behind and asking me questions I was too young to know the answers to. A male ‘friend’ slapping my arse whilst doing cross-country, only for the PE teacher to tell me when I’m complained that ‘boys will be boys’. To the person who took advantage and humiliated me whilst I was blind drunk, to those who tried to blackmail me into sending inappropriate pictures, to the random man who followed me home from school three times in a row.
Even now, it’s still happening. And sometimes I’m letting it happen. My body doesn’t feel like mine because for me, it never has been.
And it just means that when someone doesn’t treat me like shit, doesn’t force me into sleeping with them, or turn abusive when I assert my own voice, I find it incredibly difficult to let go. Even when after the ‘honeymoon period’ of a new partner being all lovely, they start turning out like all the others. It’s something I’m working on. I know I deserve better.
My favourite quote of all time is ‘It is both a blessing a curse to feel everything so very deeply’, and I think it describes my attachment issues related to emotionally unstable personality disorder really well. I can get attached to people. It breaks my heart that not everyone in our lives is here to stay. But we all play our part, and this works alongside the revived love I constantly feel towards so many people. Relationships on all levels are complicated for me, but they mean something really important. They mean that I’m not alone and I’m more than a sad story.