I used to have fun, in my old life. Or in my young life, is probably the more accurate way of describing it. Pre-drinking in someone’s house on an empty stomach because we wanted to get drunk faster or because our dresses were skin tight and we were afraid we would look bloated if we ate carbs.
(Carbs were the devil in the 2000s. I believe sugar has taken its place now, Instagram is flooded with photos of misshapen ‘snickers bars’ made from chickpeas and date syrup.) And then, in college, half broken nights with pupils bleeding black, dancing and sweating and making best friends with strangers in the club toilets, the music rising inside you.
Going home to that damp house in Fairview and talking and talking and talking until the sun is bleeding through the wafer-thin curtains and you still haven’t run out of words, they are loose at the tip of your tongue, desperate to be spoken, because you love these people more than you have ever loved anyone and they must hear that, they must know the depth of your affection for them.
Festivals and three nights in a row and drinking Buckfast for breakfast, it’s a tonic, isn’t it? Doesn’t it have iron in it or something? I’m sure it’s good for you? Thinking you will be young forever.
I can’t remember when the fun turned to an unbearable messiness. What comes up, must come down. Things began to feel queasy, unwieldy, like my life was wearing thin around the edges.
There were too many embarrassing texts sent after a few drinks, too many terrible decisions made where I would wake up the next morning and think — that’s not me. The way I acted, what I said last night — none of that reflects the person I am, or the person I want to be.
In my thirties, the Big Nights Out became fewer and farther between, friends had babies to take care of, precious exercise habits that needed tending to on Sunday mornings.
It took longer to recover from the call of “shots?” at 1am, and who could afford to waste a sacred day off at the weekend? I found myself drinking less and less, but when I did, I noticed that the hangovers were accompanied with a crippling fear and shame, and later that day, desperate to crawl out of my own body, I would turn to the eating disorder behaviours to numb the feelings.
April 2017 was the last time I was drunk. I woke up at 5am in the wrong person’s house, someone I had sworn I wouldn’t see again, surrounded by people I barely knew. And I snuck out of the front door and I wondered what I was doing with my life. Why I continued to make choices that hurt me and held me back. Why I couldn’t seem to believe that I deserved to be happy.
It’s interesting looking back now, and drawing the connections between what happened at that time. I started seeing a brilliant therapist in the Eating Disorder Centre Cork in March 2017. I swore off the Big Nights Out in April 2017. And then I stopped the cycles of bulimia and starvation in June 2017.
It’s clear to me now that these dates were linked, that it was a series of moments where I prioritised my health and well-being above my urge for self-destruction. I have carved a new life out of the rubble, one that is structured and orderly and neat. I like my routine. I love going to my gym classes, not out of a desire to be thin, but because I relish feeling strong.
I like waking up early, practicing my Transcendental Meditation before journaling for fifteen minutes, then making my breakfast of porridge and green tea. I enjoy going to my desk and knowing there is a project waiting for me, one that will challenge and push me, but teach me patience too, for a book cannot be written in a day.
I like living in the country, walking on Inchydoney beach in the afternoons, tasting salt on my tongue. I have slowed everything down, breathing deeply in and out. In the stillness, I can hear myself think. I have found myself there.
And yet sometimes, I must confess I miss the chaos. Sometimes, I want to dance and feel electricity in my veins and I want to forget who I am. I know there is a small part of me who thrills in that madness, who wants to light a match and set fire to this new life I have built for myself.
I wish I was not a person of such extremes, someone who is all or nothing, living like a nun in an enclosed order or like I’m auditioning for a small role in Human Traffic. I wish I could have chaos and order, silence and the roar of music slashing through my chest. Is that being greedy?
And yet, I feel something stirring in me. A need for change, perhaps, or just a desire for something, anything, to happen that will throw me out of this gentle lull. When your shadow side is calling, what do you do?
The Clonakilty International Guitar Festival is taking place from the 16th-22nd of September and is one of my favourite weeks of the year. The line-up is incredible, with acts like Blindboy Boatclub, The Kates, and John Spillane slated to appear. Check out clonguitarfest.com
This Way Up on the C4 Player. Aisling Bea wrote this brilliant, sharp show about a young woman called Aine who is recovering after a ‘tiny nervous breakdown’. Starring Bea and Sharon Horgan, This Way Up is surprisingly hilarious, given the subject matter, and infinitely relatable. A must watch.