Looking at the pain in my eyes
As promised, Zara Barrie is back for a 3-part series sharing her journey of pain and self-medication.
If you missed part 1, be sure to check it out here to really get the full picture.
In this article, Zara tells us what caused her self-treatment and the mechanisms she used to numb her. She came out of this cycle safely, which she will tell us about right away.
Let’s go …
For so long I have been so deeply afraid, so deeply embarrassed, so blatantly convinced that if I were to twist my lips around the truth, the anger of my own shame would kill me.
But I swear to my Higher Power (Lana Del Rey) the night I called my brother in Los Angeles and told him that I was passing out endlessly, unswervingly sad, relying on Xanax to allay the anxiety that came through. my body like lightning Once I let myself be sober and still, and most bizarrely, stumbled by the texture of the exposed brick in my apartment – the stranglehold of shame softened.
Shame’s hands were still wrapped around my neck, but his grip no longer choked me.
A few days after talking to my brother, I went to see a doctor with whom a family friend in London put me in place. My eyes almost fell out of their sockets the second I walked into his office. It was not ordinary doctor. She had giant, beautifully fake breasts that came out of a pink Barbie blouse, a miniskirt that hugged the top of her fake tan (very shiny) thighs, and a Texas-style beauty queen blowout. It looked like a sign from the great divine. It was my kind of girl. You see, in London I always felt too extra, too emotional, too loud, too adorned with rhinestones, a ostentatious Beverly Hills palm tree among the primitive English roses. I felt instantly soothed by the shimmering presence of the most glamorous, over-the-top doctor who ever existed. (Lana del Rey surely sent it to me).
“What’s going on, honey?” She purred. Her serious doctor’s eyes artistically juxtaposed against her fabulously sexy outfit.
“I’m afraid I’m going crazy,” I said staring at her legs, wondering how she had them so …brilliant.
“Why?” Asked the sexy doctor.
“Well uh, I’m really, really depressed. And really, really, really anxious. I drink way too much because I’m so depressed and so anxious and empty and that seems to be the only thing that helps. I took a break. I held my breath. To breathe meant to feel and to feel meant to cry and I really didn’t want to go the. I had been numb for so long that emotional void was my comfort zone. I clenched my fists and tightened my shoulder muscles to keep the tears from creeping out into my ducts.
“What else?” She didn’t seem particularly shocked by everything I had just said. Her neutral demeanor made me feel less like an alien from space and more like what I was: a girl. A girl going through a rough time of fucking, but a girl nonetheless.
I decided to continue. “Well, I also developed this obsession with texture.”
She didn’t flinch. “Keep on going.”
“As my brain clings to weird textures and it makes me feel like my skin crawls out of my body and stays with me for days, in fact I want to tear my flesh apart just ‘by talking about it. The wine helps her go away. But I’m afraid of going crazy.
“I regret to inform you that you do not become crazy.
“I’m not?” I asked. I felt like a little child who was just told contrary to what her deepest fears convinced her to be true, there are no monsters living under her bed.
“No. You suffer from depression, anxiety, and chronic intrusive thoughts.”
“Intrusive thoughts? ”
“It’s a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Where you have unwanted and intrusive thoughts or images stuck in your head. It’s a nightmare. But it’s not that rare. I have it too.”
Does she have it too?
“Yes honey. I have it too.” She cooed, reading my thoughts. “It works in my family. It is a biochemical problem. No big deal at all! I will prescribe a low dose of antidepressant for you. ”
“Alright,” I said nervously. Funny, I was scared to take an antidepressant, but I had recklessly put a dirty ecstasy pill in my mouth the previous weekend without a second thought.
She took a bright pink pen and wrote me a prescription. “Try this to make it better, but listen, honey.” You need go to therapy. You may have to face some pain inside of you.
“Sure.” I tweeted. I would take the antidepressants but the therapy was out of the question.
Two weeks later, I was sitting on the train, heading for work, when I first felt the gentle surge of serotonin spill over my sad brain.
It might not be that bad. I thought happily. As I jumped off the train and into Oxford Street, I suddenly felt like it was Christmas in my head. I felt the dark curtains that had closed through the windows of my heart suddenly opened and all that sunlight was pouring into me.
I had the impression of seeing glitter once again lighting the way to my future!
That’s it. I don’t have a drinking problem! I don’t have to revisit the trauma of the past! I don’t need therapy! These magic pills are all I need! THIS. IS. THE. REPLY.
And that was the answer. AT first. And then little by little, the demons found their way back into my orbit.
It started with nightmares. Bloody nightmares, graphics of being held back by big scary men. Then the shame of my ex-girlfriend returned. She laughed at me that I would soon be discovered by my parents for whom I really was. The drug helped me crawl out of bed in the morning, but it wasn’t able to fix what I felt was being broken inside of me. He was unable to erase the traumas of the past.
I wish I could tell you that I realized this right away and went to therapy. But I’m one of the most stubborn bitches you’ve ever met. My unwillingness to give in is both my greatest strength and my most murderous weakness. I didn’t go to therapy. I did not go to a trusted friend. I went back to the bar and drank myself into oblivion.
It wasn’t that I had been completely sober those first happy months on antidepressants, but I hadn’t felt the need to escape by drinking. For the first time in years, I was drinking for fun, not to numb myself.
But the demons were back, and so were my blackouts.
Now that I was taking antidepressants, my tolerance was lower than ever. A large glass of wine tripped me up and insulted me. Two tall glasses of wine and I couldn’t remember anything the next day. And I was a different kind of drunk than ever before. The pills mixed with alcohol made me wild and reckless. I ate a model’s birthday candle right next to her cake at a trendy party in Notting Hill (it was a special kind of mortifying and still makes me want to hide under the covers for the rest of my life). I jumped into a shopping cart that was driving down a busy street at 2 a.m. and almost slashed my face. And most dangerously, I started inviting strangers into my studio. By this point my roommate had moved in with her boyfriend so I was free to let my self-destruct flag fly in peace.
One morning, I woke up with a heart so heavy I thought it was going to fall out of my chest. I knew something really darkness had come to me the night before. I didn’t have to look at the black and blue bruises that adorned my skinny wrists like matching cuff bracelets to know someone had hurt me. Someone had done something to me against my will. My mind felt polluted.
Once again, I looked down the sprawling road to my future. I watched the sparks that paved the way disappear one by one before my eyes. My glittering future looked as flat and dull and cloudy as it was before I started taking antidepressants.
I took the plane and decided to stay with my parents for a while in Florida. I called a therapist. I was broke like hell but my life was at stake. I knew it. If I didn’t die from an alcohol or drug overdose, I would die from situations I got under the influence. There was no quick fix. There was no magic pill. I must have torn off that pretty pink bandage and looked at the wound in all its bloody bare.
The therapist I went to see, Catherine had warm hazel eyes and a southern twang. She wasn’t glamorous like the London doctor, but she gave off an energy so radiant it was as if she was lit from within.
“What is happening.” She asked. Nag Champa incense burnt in the background.
“I’m afraid to feel. I’m so scared to feel. I keep trying to numb my feelings with drugs and alcohol and it doesn’t work. I’m so scared to feel. I was shaking.
“Why are you so afraid of feeling, Zara? The tenderness that bleed in her voice when she said my name out loud made me cry hysterically.
“Because these feelings are so scary, I think they’re going to kill me.”
“Feelings can’t kill you.”
“They can not?
“No. The feelings are not monsters that will kill you while you sleep. It’s actually not physically possible. Running away from them with alcohol and drugs. could kill you. But the feelings won’t.
“Even the really, really bad ones?”
“Even the very, really bad one.”
It was then that I learned the most powerful lesson I have ever learned in my life, one that I repeat to myself every time I am tempted to numb an uncomfortable emotion.
Feelings can’t kill you. Flee from them can.
Stay tuned for part 3 where Zara will give us all the tips for forgiving herself and how she found freedom.
+ hear from Alexis haines on drug addiction and reality TV.
++ how to practice emotional intelligence.