I can make myself sick at will.
It’s not a rare thing, I know. It’d never be a career path for me, or even something I’d misguidedly use to get myself on Britain’s Got Talent. In fact, it is a skill so useless that that I only crack it out when I have an enduring bout of hiccups that requires nothing less than bodyshock to make them fuck off.
When I was young it was my secret power. It formed a bubble around me. It protected me from hurt. It created a fuzzy, hungry, hollow distance from criticism and elevated me from those who meant to harm me. It kept me slim.
I was a very unhappy teenager. Find me one who is/was happy and I’ll literally explode with joy because it means that there is a slim chance that my daughter will never cry like I did. Whoever invented ‘The Discomfort Years’ was either a First Class Spooky Genius of the First Water or the Biggest Wanker That Ever Wielded The Hormone Stick. You either come out of it unscathed and with a perky ‘hurrah, here comes adulthood!’ vibe or, like me, spending the subsequent years fighting at every level.
My puking began with self-hatred, like all puking does. I had just past my fourteenth birthday and through no fault of my own, my life had changed forever. I was rude and sullen and insular. I was a teenager, but with a turbo-charged accelerator. I despised everyone. But I despised myself most of all. My anger and fear came over me in waves and there was nothing in the world that could stop it. I was constantly scared. But there was nothing I could do. My fear ate me up from the inside.
I would pass-out with hunger.
Of course, it was never hunger. It was ‘tiredness’, ‘illness’, ‘overwhelming period pains’ or even fake drunkenness and heartbreak. Never hunger. And I never cried. Nothing could make me cry. Because if I broke, I lost. I looked in the mirror sideways and saw the concave of my stomach and smiled, reassured that I was safe as long as I couldn’t be recognised. Safe, if I could disappear.
As I got older (and I write this plainly and with no arrogance) I discovered love. Moreover, I discovered that a small amount of people loved me enough to cuddle me when I woke up with nightmares and not ask why. Who would patiently follow me and stand outside bathroom doors shouting ‘NO!’. Who knew that no matter how much of a gobshite I professed to be, it was just a replacement for puking. A boundary that separated me from potential pain.
I’m writing this because I can. My memory, though blurred with years and tears, still has clarity when it matters. I understand why I sometimes curl up in a ball and cry. Or why I shake away my demons with wine and work and words. We’ve all read the headlines over the last 24 hours. Our Facebook Timelines and Twitter Feeds have been awash with disgust, anger, fury, outrage…thousands upon thousands of people doling out how they would make Ian Watkins suffer.
And all I can think about is how those babies are going to cope when they inevitably find out what happened to them. I thought I could vomit out everything and after 24 years I’m still crying over my keyboard.
Even if I ever had the chance to hug them and tell them that everything would be ok, I’d be lying.
And they’d know it.