All quotes have been taken from Zee Malvern’s memoir “Growing Up Mental” that is currently still in the writing process.
Trigger Warning for eating disorders, addiction, BPD, suicide, and self-harm
I thought my disability was created through co-occupant disorders characterized by my poor character and lack of intelligence, but after writing this memoir several times over I’ve realized my disorders were simply coping mechanisms for the all too real events happening within the timeframe of my own self-discovery. I got lost in treatment and I heard so many tragedies that I started to think mine were meaningless, even if I exhibited the exact symptoms of someone with a harsher aesthetic. So, I started to create my own tragedies through starving myself and playing with fire. I indulged in every sour emotion or dysfunctional impulse I experienced, but as long as I was living a tragic life I was convinced my feelings and thoughts were valid. I created my own path of destruction because all I wanted was validation.
My story begins around 10 years ago when I was first admitted through emerg at Lakeridge Hospital, after being fast-tracked through the system due to the severity of my disorder. I was thirteen-years-old and dropped out of high school within my first week of attending it. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which is quite a young age for this type of diagnoses, many professionals do not agree with diagnosing this type of disorder under the age of eighteen but I was exhibiting all of the diagnostic symptoms.
My childhood wasn’t traumatic, other than my parent’s divorce and being bullied at school I was pretty much your average kid. However, I exhibited severe aggression, depression, impulsivity, hallucinations, and suicidal ideation from an age as young as eight-years-old. I assumed that talking to the people that lived in my pillow was normal but after the self-harm became regular and my anxiety started to limit my functioning my parents decided it was time for medical attention, not too long after I was taken out of society altogether.
I’ve spent a lot of my life blaming the system for all the things that are wrong in my life but looking back I know that they were simply trying to save my life, and guess what? They did.
People say that it gets easier but it never does, you just learn to cope with it. If I look back at my life at sixteen years old I laugh because the circumstances I was under were completely different and if I went through the same thought process as I did then, I wouldn’t get the same results. I guess that’s what they mean when people say we get stronger. Things don’t stop bothering you, you just get used to it. I have to call it beautiful because seeing how people adapt to the circumstances is amazing and the absolute cliche truth is that you can’t see the sunrise if you don’t go through the night. My friends who never had the pleasure of hurting, like Sheryl or Nicole, will never get the chance to see how beautiful the sunrise is because it’s always been sunny where they are. It’s a blessing to be put through such an immense amount of darkness that even a night light can be as bright as the sun. I pity the people who have it easy, they will never get the chance to appreciate what they already have. Every breath that I take I know is a blessing and I refuse to let it pass without doing everything I can to make them count.Zee Malvern
After spending about a year and a half in the institution I discharged myself against medical advice…which would soon become a pattern. I was sick of being in a room with barred windows and I hadn’t felt a breeze in almost a year so as soon as I was put on as voluntary, I left. I switched to a schooling program where I only attended one high school class a week and every other course was done from home. I used to be a popular kid but after my diagnoses and a few public breakdowns, I was forgotten. It still hurts me to this day to think that my best friends as an adolescent left me so easily. For the rest of my youth, my best friends would come and go with each admission and discharge. We said we’d stay in touch but it never panned out. I lost my friends, reputation, and treatment program all within a couple years.
Within about six months I found my favourite coping strategy…starving myself. I became addicted to the lifestyle of constant pain and since my life was empty, why shouldn’t I be? I loved every time I was diagnosed with a new type of illness due to malnutrition, from osteoporosis to anaemia. Soon these medical setbacks started to affect my daily life. I started fainting, my throat became raw with acid, my nose bled every day, I was prohibited from walking up even one flight of stairs, I started to sleep for 90% of the day, my mood started to lower which only gave that voice inside my head more reason to starve. By the time I turned 16-years-old I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and I was admitted back to Lakeridge hospital for weight gain and tube feeding. They kept me as an inpatient for the next year until I was transferred to Toronto General Hospital (TGH) for an inpatient eating disorders program that lasted until I was eighteen-years-old. I again, discharged myself against medical advice as soon as I was taken off the involuntary form.
I came out as part of the LGBTQ community a couple months out of TGH. My first same-sex relationship ended abruptly when my girlfriend asked for medication since she ran out of her own. We were on the same meds so I leant her an old bottle of my medication. The next day I woke up to the news of her death, she had killed herself with my pills.
I started to seek new ways to cope with the guilt of her death, I blamed myself for it. She had a child who was now motherless because of me. I found solstice in drugs and alcohol. When I was high I couldn’t feel so I immersed myself in the drug industry. I started to abuse benzodiazepines, hit acid, and I always had a bottle of vodka on hand. After I did some pretty dangerous things like spending my nights driving drug dealers and hookers to their clients I was admitted to Homewood Health the rehab centre in Guelph. Within in the next year, I heard of several of my friend’s death’s in the drug industry from by overdose and murder.
“You’re trembling,” I felt a ping of embarrassment at my shaking hands.
“Sorry, it’s a side effect from my meds.” She took a sip of her coffee, “Or maybe you’re just happy to see me.”
I smiled, “Maybe.”Zee Malvern
Just before admission to Homewood Health, I got engaged someone who both physically and mentally tormented me. To this day I couldn’t tell you if she ever told me the truth about any part of her life. She was said to have terminal cancer so after 3 months of dating she told me it was her dream to be married before she passed and I wanted to make that happen for her because even though she manipulated me I thought I loved her. After about a month of admission, she told me she only had a few weeks left, so I (again) left against medical advice. I spent all of my university savings on an apartment for us and I sent thousands of dollars for her medications which I never saw her take. When my money ran low she started to threaten ripping up the prescriptions by ripping paper over the phone and telling me I was killing her. The day she was supposed to move in she said she no longer wanted to since the apartment was too small. I had a bit of a breakdown since I spent so much money and gave up yet another hospital treatment program I did all of this for her and she didn’t even want it. I went to her house and she threatened both me and my sister. We broke it off that day.
I was at the worst point of my entire life. I had no money for school or even groceries anymore and guilt filled me every time my parents had to front me money just to keep my head above water. I had no relationship, I lost the apartment, I dropped out of the upcoming university year due to lack of funds, my car broke down, my family had had enough, I was no longer in any type of treatment, and had to eat my meals at a soup kitchen.
After being put into a halfway house I had a breakdown which brought me to the hospital. I tried to jump off a high building, it was almost like something from Flashpoint. There was a police officer talking to me on the ground as I sat on the ledge, and when I said my goodbye I heard a car horn and several flashing lights went off, when I turned my head to see what it was I was slammed to the ground by several police officers who started to restrain me. I was put into isolation after I was unable to keep myself safe and within a week I found myself in 12-point restraints with a team of security surrounding me 24hrs/day. My food was served to me on paper plates with paper spoons, I wasn’t allowed to shower, I couldn’t have any type of hot liquid like coffee or tea, knives, forks, and plastic were forbidden, and I was sedated several times through injection. Due to “misbehaviour”, I was punished with no type of amusement so I couldn’t watch TV, read, or have any visitors. I was at the lowest point in my life, I just wanted out.
I couldn’t kill myself because I was already dead and it was the greatest kind of torture.Zee Malvern
This is when things started to turn around which is funny because it was as if something just clicked. After being slowly exposed back to regular items, places, and then discharged from the hospital I found myself in a place I’d never seen before. I wasn’t sad…I wasn’t angry…I was hopeful. I spent my days applying to universities, going to treatment, and creating the best possible life for myself under the circumstances. I found myself employed as a dog groomer, I saved enough money to move out of my parent’s house and got accepted to McMaster University. I didn’t want to self-destruct, I wanted to show people that I could make it through. I wanted to show people that no matter the shit that happens we can adapt and move on. I went through almost every piece of shit that can come of BPD. Self-harm, eating disorders, suicide, and addiction. I was sick of punishing myself for things that happened to me. I accepted the responsibility of recovery and the part in my own self-destruction. After being put into intensive outpatient therapy I came out as transgendered and started my transition. I started going to actual therapy rather than programs. I found peace in the fact that my entire life was not the systems fault and it wasn’t my fault either. I did the best that I could under every circumstance and being exposed to almost only the medical industry for my entire adolescence I never got the chance to learn to socialize, go to school, or be a kid and that’s ok. I was saving my life and I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to go through so many health risks and come out alive. Today I stutter and suffer from involuntary body movements, I still have osteoporosis and anaemia, my brain has endured several traumas leaving parts of it dysfunctional, I shake and tremble consistently throughout the day, my body is in constant pain from bone rot, and I’ve lost almost all of my concentration and memory from these trauma’s but I’ve found ways to cope and work with my body to produce enough of a functioning ability to attend McMaster University as a scholar, raise thousands of dollars for mental health awareness, work a part-time job, organize fundraising volunteer events, and work as a social media and marketing lead on the Jack.org team.
My story is unique and I’m lucky enough to have the chance to share it. It has become one of the biggest reasons to live for another day. I went through the system and came out alive and I know things that others couldn’t imagine. I want to put my brain to use and help others in similar situations. That’s why I created CraZee Advocacy and that’s why I’m sharing my story with you. I know it’s cliche, but if I can make it through…so can you.