What I Wish Everyone Knew About Feeling Suicidal.

The thing is you never will truly understand something unless it happens to you, and goodness do I hope this will never happen to you. But for those of you who haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts, there is something you need to know.

Before my assault, I had never been suicidal, not really. I’d thought about it but hadn’t experienced the overwhelming urge that you are unable to simply shrug off and continue your day with. I used to think that if someone felt suicidal that they’d been planning it for ages and knew exactly what they were going to do. This can be the case sometimes, but not always.

See for me there were many varying horrible thoughts and voices that flowed through my head telling me to give up, but these varying feelings I can categorize into three main subsections.

Firstly, there is numbness. You’re fed up of existing, of feeling like you’re nothing but a shell and that all you’re doing is walking through the motions every day of what a ‘happy’ person would do. The greatest façade; pretending that everything is okay. But really you don’t want to be there anymore, you don’t necessarily want to die but you also no longer want to exist. You just want the world to pause. You aren’t going to actively plan your suicide but if the chance came you’d take it.

Secondly, there is what is seen as “normal” suicidal feelings. By normal I do not by any means mean that they are okay and if you feel this way please get help because you are so special and deserve to be free from these demons. By normal I mean what from an outside perspective you would think being suicidal is; a long-lasting overwhelming feeling of just wanting everything to stop, to not exist anymore. A feeling that has plagued you for some time and you either have or could plan out how you’d do it. Similar to the first type but somewhat more intense, instead of wavering between wanting to not be here anymore and just wanting a break you are more certain. This is what I always thought it meant to be suicidal. I thought it wasn’t something that could not happen quickly but was, in fact, a long-lasting feeling that you’d fought for so long and could no longer ignore. This is what makes the third type so scary.

Thirdly, and most scarily is the one that I had no idea existed until I felt suicidal. To feel this, I think you have to have the first kind to an extent or at least to be in such a low place that you just don’t really care anymore. Because this kind is the spontaneous, here is my opportunity so let’s do it kind. It hasn’t been pre-planned, in-fact you may not have even knowingly felt suicidal but, you see a sudden opportunity to take your life and you do it.

This type is so scary because it’s so sudden and seemingly unexplained. The first time I felt this was one day when walking, I was very low but I didn’t think I was suicidal. Until I stumbled upon a bridge over a train track and thought, “why not?”. I sat on that bridge for hours, mind numb, body numb, just so ready for this pain to end. Luckily for me, there were no trains that day or I would not be writing this right now.

The reason I am writing this is that I didn’t realize how quickly you can go from feeling like you have everything under control to suddenly wanting to end it all and how scary it is to see how quickly someone can make that decision. So I urge you all, every single one of you to please reach out to people you know. Even people you don’t know. Because that person, you know the one who always seems happy, occasionally may post something “depressing” but quickly removes it. Or they may be totally silent in their pain. That is the person I urge you to reach out to as just because you cannot see their suffering does not mean it’s not there. I cannot stress enough how important human interaction, kindness and love means when you are in that place emotionally. So PLEASE reach out, be kind, be empathetic because you never know when you could be saving a life.

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An Open Letter to My Rapist.

Dear Z,

So people don’t know your name I will refer to you from here on as Z, this is not for your benefit but for mine. In December 2017 on a cold winter night, I invited you over to my University campus to hang out with me and my friends. A seemingly innocent friendly encounter turned into something I could never have imagined, not even in my darkest nightmares. That night after making excuses as to why I had to walk you back with just you and I and nobody else, you pulled me down a dark secluded path and you raped me.

5 months on and I am not writing this for sympathy or understanding or to get back at you but instead simply because I do not want to feel ashamed anymore. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide what happened away out of fear of how people will react. It has taken me 5 months to realise that nothing you did was okay and nothing you did was at all my fault.

Life since that night has been exhausting, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after Christmas because I was so terrified of life not only could I not leave my room but I didn’t want to. Utterly consumed by a black fog that refused to lift no matter how hard I tried. What you did to me didn’t only haunt me whilst awake but it haunted me in my dreams, every night averaging about 4 hours sleep because every time I closed my eyes all I could see was your face. All I could feel was you pushing your hand into my ribs so hard I couldn’t breathe. All I could hear was me crying and begging you to stop. All I could sense was how if I didn’t do what you wanted me to I wasn’t going to make it out of there alive.

Life since that night has been exhausting, I’m fed up. Fed up with being scared to leave my room. Fed up of not being able to look at myself in the mirror without feeling disgusting. Fed up with the constant roller coaster between one-minute feeling like it will be okay and the next not wanting to be here anymore. I’m fed up with hating myself. I’m fed up of feeling like no-one will like me or want anything to do with me when they find out I’ve been raped. I’m fed up with feeling weak and worthless. I’m fed up of getting into such an anxious state I self-harm without realizing as it’s the only way I can escape. I’m fed up with the scars on my arm. Fed up with feeling like no-one could ever love me.

Life since that night has been exhausting, the day after it happened I felt like I was walking around with a huge sign on my head saying, “I have just been raped”. I felt like everyone was staring at me, judging me and like everyone knew. Since that night I’ve been scared of three things; firstly seeing you again, secondly the hurt I am capable of inflicting upon myself and thirdly what everyone will think of me when they find out.

That’s why I’m writing this letter.

I saw you again for the first time since that awful December night last Thursday and I have stopped hurting myself so there is only one more fear left on that list to conquer.

I wasn’t brave enough to report what you did to me, not only out of fear of knowing what the people around you would do to me because of who you are but also because I know I wouldn’t survive the court system. Not because I don’t trust the courts but because I don’t trust me to be able to deal with the stress of the whole thing without ending my life. But also because I have worked so hard to be well enough physically after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome to go to uni in the first place that I don’t want to ruin the chances of passing my degree by focusing the little energy I have on sending you to prison. Because quite frankly Z, you are not worth any more of my time.

I am writing this letter, not for sympathy, not for understanding and not to get back at you Z but instead for me. I am fed up of feeling ashamed and disgusting for what YOU did to ME, it’s not fair and I have had enough of it. So I am taking back as much control as I can of the situation by stopping living in fear of people finding out, to conquer the third fear on my list and continue to heal.

Dear Z,

You may have stolen my body, but I refuse to let you steal my mind.

May you rot in hell,

Erika. x

The End of an Era.

Lounging in my bed at 9pm embarking upon another season of “Jane The Virgin” whilst I find every excuse possible to distract myself from what I really should be doing, packing, I decided to write a blog. I initially started writing about futile things such as clothes, but another subject plagued my mind.
You see in 2 days, although by the time I’ve edited and published this it’ll likely be less than 24 hours, I am moving house. Okay, that makes it sound a lot more exciting than it actually is, I am really moving all of my millions of clothes into a tiny room situated in a student accommodation block in Bath. That’s right ladies and gentlefeathers, this girl’s going to uni!
“Yaaay” I hear you exclaim! And if you’re not then, well, rude. Get the shots going, it’s time to celebrate! Your uni years are the best of your life!

Then answer me this: why I have I never before been so terrified?

Nerves are normal. I get it. But for the past few weeks, I’ve hardly slept a wink, constant fears engulfing my brain like an overflowing river bursting its banks. What if I get ill? What if I end up in the hospital? What if no one likes me because I’m the ‘sick girl’? What if my body can’t take it?

What if I don’t fit in?

Y’see, being ill is a bit shit. I’ve been talking to a few people and I find myself constantly trying to hide my illness, then the thought of having to tell them fills me with this intoxicating fear that stops me from being able to see straight. I feel like I have to tell them, I mean I owe them the opportunity to walk away right? Always trying to make out like it’s not a big deal so people will stick around. But you know what? It’s a fucking big deal! Not in a way that makes me weird or untrustworthy, just in a way that its existence has completely changed the path of my life, like a tornado ripping through a town changing its entire being forever. I have changed.

The past three years have been, well I hate to be cliché but a rollercoaster.
I’ve had endless heartache, pain, paralysing fear, hospital admissions, fight after fight with my own body to just survive. But I’ve also had some of the most amazing, happy and beautiful moments I could have ever wished for. I made friends. Like real friends for life friends who never once judged me, they always asked how I was and were happy to just sit and listen when things got tough. They celebrated the victories, no matter how small. Like when I went from seeing my consultant bi-weekly to once a month. Or when I went from living off of meal replacement drinks to my first bite of solid food in a year. I’d never quite experienced people who love me for me no matter what my health or status. People who are not just my friends but my family. People who accepted me. People who watched and helped me grow from a scared little girl into an ambitious young woman who has the world at her feet and the determination to take her to the stars. People who I will love and cherish forever (APT I’m talking to you!)

The truth is I’m not just scared to start university because of my illness, I’m scared because of what I’m leaving behind. I’ve never really had friends. Well I’ve had friends, but not friends who have really stuck by me when the going gets tough (bar a few). But in the last three years I’ve gone from feeling worthless, like anyone who sticks around I owe the world to so it doesn’t matter if they walk all over me and make me feel horrific because I deserve it. After all they’ve done me a favour for sticking around and being my “friend”. To realising that I am SO much more than my illness and I am worth so much more than people who only want to be around me for their own ego and attempt at being heroic, so they can say they were friends with “that sick girl”.

Now I’ve finally become comfortable with my life, I’m not as ill as I once was and, for the first time in a long time, I am happy. I’d got into a routine which was comfortable, living in a house that was comfortable, earning money that was comfortable and being with people who I felt comfortable with. Changing that all up when that very comfort is all that you’ve craved for god knows how many years is pretty damn terrifying!

But then I think back to three years ago, lying in a hospital bed in London, crying in the arms of a consultant who by simply saying, “It’s not going to be easy from here on out, but you’re going to be okay” seemed to change the trajectory of my life. I thought maybe my dreams weren’t futile and that maybe, just maybe I will one day have a life again. And who knows, maybe I will be able to go to university after all?

So am I scared? Yes. But I owe it to myself to not back out now, to man the hell up and just go. Change is scary for everyone and change is particularly bloodcurdlingly terrifying for someone who’s constantly balancing on a line between hospital admission inducing multi-organ failure and living. But you know what dear readers? I’ve got this.

Wednesday the 20th of September 2017 marks the end of an era. But also the beginning of a new one which I sure as hell will make worth remembering.

Watch out world, this girls got her fight back.

x

An open letter to the doctors at the emergency department

Whilst curled up on the waiting room chair at 1am dipping in and out of sleep, consumed with pain and nausea so much so I could hardly breathe. My ears were overwhelmed with the loud muttering of machines reading the internal wellness of the vulnerable human’s laid there to recover. Patients sat across from me filling in complaint forms about their wait times, negative after negative about their hospital experience. “I’ve been waiting 5 hours, I need to go home” they’d say. Nurses and doctor’s all running around not once having the luxury of sitting down, coming to the end of their 13 hour shifts not one note of resentment or frustration escaped in their voices. “I am very sorry, we are just very busy tonight.” In reply to the angry voices of the people they are doing their best to help.

The first few hours of my experience that night I do not remember. I was so dehydrated from a combination of digestive tract dysmotility, meaning I have to take medication to make my digestive system move as it is unable to do so on its own, and a stomach bug causing the perfect storm.
As you may or may not have guessed, I am chronically ill. I have a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome(EDS) and an autonomic nervous system disorder called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) meaning my body cannot control its automatic functions. I don’t get, what I like to call, ‘normal people’ sick very often. But when I do I can go downhill very quickly at an uncontrollable rate. I can’t control my body temperature, I get violently sick and my whole body shakes with the effort to stay conscious.

Naturally, being chronically ill I have had many contrasting experiences of health care along the route to getting my diagnosis’. There’s been doctor’s who don’t listen, doctor’s who don’t understand and doctor’s who are just as confused and frustrated as I have been. It is also very difficult to know what my ‘normal’ is and when I need to go to the emergency department. The anxiety of ‘but I don’t want to be told I’m wasting time’ constantly running through your head. But ultimately what shines through the most are the doctors who may not understand, may be confused by my complexities but who still put every effort they can into making my life as comfortable and healthy as possible. Doctors and healthcare professionals like the one’s I met that night.

When I started to be aware of my surroundings again I never once felt rushed or disbelieved, time was made for me to explain and have my say about my health and treatment, which was difficult due to the dehydration and fatigue. The nurses made me laugh and helped cheer me up after what was quite a traumatic flare up of my disability. Doctor’s seeing me very regularly just to check that I was okay and recovering well. Even when I wasn’t aware of what was going on my mother informed me that they treated me with the utmost respect, asking about my chronic conditions and doing all they could to make me feel better. Never once making me feel like a time waster or embarrassed, because let’s be honest talking about your digestive system (i.e. poo) is never the most glamorous of things!

So this is an open letter to everyone who looked after me those few days in hospital. Thank you for doing the best you could in a system that doesn’t respect you enough, to make me feel better. You were all wonderful, despite undue criticism about things completely out of your control. You never once got frustrated or angry; you kept your cool, made us laugh and made what could have so easily been a traumatic experience for me into a calm one. Thank you for the work you have done and will continue to do. You’re all wonderful. And I don’t think you hear it enough.

Thank you,

Erika Bohling.

The Things No One Tells You About Training.

We are constantly inundated with stories of how people went from couch to half marathon in 10 weeks, training programs described as, “one size fits all” promising progress without setbacks. Miracle pills and diets, detox’s that aid recovery and boost performance. Drinks that claim to refuel and re-fill without the diet no go such as fat and carbs (which you actually need by the way!!).

No.

Every person is different and every person’s body reacts differently to different training programs and regimes. Something that may work wonderfully for one person may be next to useless to you just because your body doesn’t tolerate it. Some people can get away with doing minimal training and others have to work their fingers (or trainers) to the bone to see any results.

I came into this half marathon world a little naively, although exercise has been a key part of my life for years I had never really trained for anything. I thought I could search a half marathon training plan on the internet, do exactly as it said and relish in the results it promised. But boy was I wrong!
To be fair I have added difficulties with being chronically ill, however, after doing this “one size fits all” training program for 5 weeks I realised it was just not working for me. A little disheartened I decided to take a break, revert back to my normal strengthening and cardio routines and work on building strength and stamina. Then with a whole new lease on life, and a new perspective, I decided to give it another go.

I searched for real-life stories of people’s training programs. No. Training journeys. None of this “I have won 3284045632 marathons, my training program is the only one that works.” I realised that training is not just something you can set time aside for every week to do, it is a 24 hour 7 day a week journey. It starts the minute you wake up and ends the minute you go to sleep. It involves pacing, food, prioritizing, planning and most importantly listening to your body. I realised that if one day your sore, tired and your body is begging you to stop then to listen. You don’t have to go on that 13-mile run (not that I am there yet) because it was on your schedule. This is particularly relevant to me, some days I can feel relatively okay and other days I am so fatigued, sick and in so much pain that I can not physically get out of bed. These days are the days you need to rest, relax and be proud of what you are doing.

I realised that you need to treat your body and mind with respect, try new things but don’t be too hard on your self if something doesn’t work.

The only way to find the perfect training program for you is to experiment. Play around with different exercises and routines, see what you enjoy and what helps you progress. Switch it up! Don’t always think you have to run and only run, to be the best you can you need to strengthen that core!

Most importantly I have realised it is okay if the only exercise you get today is to breathe. Your mind and soul need love and respect just like the rest of you.

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Half Marathon and Me

I’m going to run a half marathon.
“Yeah right, you run?”
Yes, why is that funny?
“Because you’re chronically ill. Sick people can’t do sport.”

“Oh can’t they?” I say, eagerly pulling on my trainers ready for another multi-terrain, 11-mile training session in the wind and rain. “You just watch me.”

My name is Erika Bohling, I am 20 years old and live in the Cotswolds. I have brown wavy hair and blue eyes. I am 5ft6. I love music, dancing and being outdoors.

I am also chronically ill.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a multisystemic genetic connective tissue disease, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) meaning my body cannot control my autonomic nervous system.
When I was 12 I was also diagnosed with severe Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). It had taken control of all four of my limbs, rendering them useless. I was told that if I were to not successfully fight the condition that I would never walk again.

In June 2017 I will be running a half marathon in aid of the wonderful charity Scope.

A half marathon for me will be an extremely tough journey. Training with an illness will be hard. And I don’t mean it’ll just be a little tiring, I mean mentally and physically one of the toughest things I will ever do. Let me put it into perspective…

When you are walking down the street, shopping, getting on a bus, having coffee with friends, are you consciously trying to prevent your joints from dislocating? Are you thinking about what you can do to stop your heart beating at 160bpm because you’ve been stood up for more than 15 minutes? Are you thinking about how much time you can spend out of the house before you are overcome with paralyzing fatigue? Are you thinking about whether you can eat anything or not just encase your digestive system decides it won’t work today? Are you thinking about whether you have enough money in your bank to afford your medication that month?

No?

Well, these are just a few of the things I have to think about every single day, just to live a relatively “normal” life. So throw a half marathon into the mix and it multiplies these issues by 100.

So, why do it then?

Good question!

I have grown up in a society where disability and illness are a taboo. A vast majority of people assume that illness and/or disability mean you can no longer live a fulfilling life and that you definitely can’t do sport. This made life growing up with a disability hard for me, and even more so when I fell really ill two years ago. I believed that my life was over, that I could no longer be successful or happy and that I could definitely not do sport.

The wonderful work from all of the athletes in the Paralympics has really done a lot to improve public perception of what a person with a disability can do. But we STILL get people saying to us that we “can’t do sport”. The conversation I started this blog post with is a genuine conversation I had with someone.

So I am determined to do this half marathon! Training will be hard for me, I know that. I also know that there will be times that my health will go downhill, I will be scared, upset, and angry and want to give up. There will be days when I will think it is impossible.

But I will remember what that person said to me. And I will remember the little girl with down syndrome I used to teach dance to and the many other disabled children out there with so much passion, enthusiasm and raw talent. And I will do it for them. So that they can grow up knowing that just because you may be disabled or chronically ill it doesn’t mean you can’t do something.. Just that you may have to do it in a different way.

I will be blogging throughout my journey in an attempt to highlight the highs and lows of training whilst being ill. I will be raw and honest, open about the extra barriers I face but also about how it is possible and how rewarding it will be.

Thank you for reading my story, you can donate here.

Have a beautiful day!

-Erika.x

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erika-bohling

Why ‘society’ and I will never get along.

Society.

It is an odd thing.

A compilation of pressures, wonders, praise and criticism highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly of our every day lives.
Some are lucky enough to not have a care in the world to the societal pressures placed upon us daily, and others care so much that they fall into a dark cycle of following the script forced upon us by the uppermost beings on the social ladder and feeling inadequate if they do not fit neatly into that box..

And then there’s me. wavering around somewhere in the middle.

I like to think I’m a confident, brave and intelligent young woman who, the majority of the time, has no care as to what is socially expected of me.
But the one thing I can not and never will accept in western society is the absolute obsession with body image.

obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.

We are so preoccupied with the physical appearance that we fail to acknowledge and celebrate our individual achievements, quirks and successes. Our accomplishments in life seem void if we do not possess the body of a God.

I hate that at 12 years old I learnt to walk again after being told by doctors I would never regain the use of my arms and legs yet I’m still socially defined by what I see in the mirror.
I hate that I work tirelessly to help the community yet I am still told I’m worthless if my waist is not the correct circumference.
I hate that I live a life of defying the odds yet still I am told I’m not good enough because of the way I look.
I hate the fact that I’ve achieved incredible things in my life yet still I am told I’m irrelevant if I do not look a certain way.

What I hate the most is that I know I am not alone.

The reason we are made to feel this way is that our physical appearance is the first thing someone sees about us.
But the fact is every single person has a story. A story not obvious via their physical appearance.

We need the powerful influences of the world to help re-program our brains into not defining someone by their appearance.
The media, magazines, news channels, everyone needs to start celebrating the achievements a person has made. Commenting on their successes first instead of their ‘fashion fails’ or their ‘acne’.

But the only way it is going to change is if we start with ourselves.
And it is really very simple.

Be. Kind.

When you see someone on the street, at the very least do not make snide remarks. Instead, pay them a compliment. Tell them how they look wonderful today. Tell them how they’re glowing from the inside. And tell them that they are so much more than the way they look.

Because you see, that’s what it boils down to.

And after all, there are far worse things to be in this world than fat.

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