The depths of identity…


Some of my previous posts have been about my writing identities project and my focus on the three years I spent at boarding school. Writing these blogs, and the feedback some of you have very kindly given really helped me; it’s been a sort of excavation project, digging through layers of crap writing that ranged from clichéd, to boring, to clichéd and boring.  But finally a couple of weeks ago I managed to reach down far enough to find something I’m actually quite proud of.  It needs work, but I believe it can be something really powerful.  It seems the story I needed to get to wasn’t about boarding school, but why I was there.
I’m really grateful to anyone who has read these posts and shared feedback, or even just looked at my work.  Below is an excerpt of what I’ve written – I hope you enjoy.

Up in the house I met my flustered “nut cracker”, whose job was to show me around and help me fit in.  She and the other girls were just back from half term.  My family left, and I don’t remember anything else until later that night.  I’m not sure if I couldn’t sleep or if I woke up, but I remember sitting at the foot of my upper bunk-bed, looking out the window, and thinking “Shit, what have I done?”

About ten months earlier I’d thought almost exactly the same thing.  It was the last night of the Christmas holidays and I was due to return to the school I hated in the morning.  I’d been different from my usual shut-down, angry self that evening.  I hadn’t begged or threatened.  My mum and sister must have felt so relieved.  We had an Indian takeaway, watched a video from the library then all went to bed.  I took a small cup of water with me.  Kneeling down by my cabin bed I pulled out my little stash of painkillers.  I considered the paracetamol, I had 10 of those.  I had the same number of ponstan, which I presumed was more toxic as it had been prescribed by the doctor.  I decided to take just the ponstan, I thought it would be enough, and paracetamol is hard to swallow and tastes disgusting.  So I calmly swallowed the green and yellow capsules with my cup of water.  After I’d taken them, for one moment I thought about the magnitude of what I’d done.  I whispered “Oh my God” to myself, I think because of the unknown of death, not what I was leaving behind in my life.  Then I got into bed, and went peacefully to sleep.

I woke up in the night with a very sharp pain in my stomach.  I was disappointed to wake up again, but I decided to tell my mum.  I crept down the hall and knocked on her door.  My sister must have heard from her attic bedroom because she started coming down the stairs.  My exhausted and annoyed mother came to her door and asked what I wanted.  “I took an overdose and now my stomach hurts” I mumbled.

“You what?” She spat furiously.  I repeated myself.  My sister gave a gasp from where she stood and covered her mouth with her hands.  My mother told her to call an ambulance.  She yelled at me to get dressed and made me drink salt water.

Waiting for the ambulance and when we got to the hospital she would barely look at me.  At some point my dad and step mother arrived.  It turned out that taking ponstan isn’t an effective method of suicide; the only danger is allergic reaction and I simply had to stay in overnight for observation.  My mum went home and I ended the night trying to sleep on the children’s ward.  It took me a long time to get over my mum’s reaction, to be so angry when I needed her.  To have offered me no comfort.  I’m not sure she’s ever really stopped being angry with me since.

She never apologised for her reaction, but she did try desperately to change things after that.  Treats whenever she could afford, trying to shout at me less and eventually the home schooling and the boarding school.  These things didn’t come with trust (pain killers remained locked up) or forgiveness, but they came.

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