Hello there, my name is Zoe. Or at least that’s what they call me.
Now it’s all very complicated, so please be patient. I was born just over twenty years ago to a psychopath, or maybe a sociopath. She wasn’t very pleasant and so my life was a little unusual.
The way in which my life was unusual is due to the sort of relationships and behaviours that characterise a sociopath. Needless to say, my mother doesn’t love people.
Me and my siblings were born to make her life easier, to keep her from working, to fund her cigarettes and alcohol, to allow her the sympathies of a mother, and to bind my father to her. There were no ‘I love yous’, no bedtime stories, no hugs, no care, no understanding, or nurturing of any kind. Imagine a child alone in a room infested with lice, with ribs that point, crying to no one. When my dad was away I was fed poorly, rarely spoken to, often insulted, and left to stew in filth and squalor. The other children were rarely merciful. I grew to be small and sickly. Like most neglected children I had a withdrawn and sad personality. I haunted classroom corners, sometimes crying, and weeped under trees.
That is not to say that everything was bad. Eventually I managed to make a small number of friends. Some of them knew about my mother. My teachers had long assumed that my withdrawn demeanor and general inactivity, meant that I was slow. At about eight years old it became apparent that I was in fact deceptively intelligent. I moved from the bottom of the class to the top in a day. A self fulfilling prophecy was created. I was seen as bright but strange.
A small group of amicable children accepted me, with some disagreement. They were the ‘geeks’ of the class. To fit in with them I created an imaginary videogame, complete with script, story, and painstakingly created merchandise.
I began to behave both more academically and creatively. I created dollhouses, stories, shelves, playlists, song lyrics, keyboard music, poems, drawings, and crafts. In order to keep up with my newfound friends I began studying the sciences and accumulated science toys such as chemistry sets. My friends had a structure to their lives. My impetigo infected body craved such a structure. It is at this point that I became very harsh on myself. I became my own disciplinarian. As you might imagine I did surprisingly well in school, for I had nothing else going for me.
Secondary school was essentially a continuation of my newfound identity, with a number of dips in the road. I acquired a larger group of friends known for their boisterous creativity. I became much more extraverted and began to identify as such, albeit self consciously. It is the case that introversion and not extraversion is associated with higher intelligence, in a way that is more applicable to the academic setting. My desire for comprehension was in conflict with my extraverted persona. As per the usual pattern, I was bullied, but I had my friends to support me. It became apparent that my thinking was a little different to that of the other adolescents. I had a comparatively abstract way of thinking, that was not logical. During secondary school I amplified my unusual identity, exploring BDSM, sexuality, niche psychology, personality theory, and using my peculiar nature as a defense mechanism. It became apparent that there are different levels to the responses in breaking social mores. I noted that if I was strange enough people would cease to bully me and actively avoid me. After I had a group of friends to support me I did just that. Despite my deliberate breaking of conventions I still very strident and secretly competitive. I acquired the highest GCSE score in the final year.
And what of my mother? She degenerated further. Each morning and on returning from school I was verbally assaulted. Aside from that she would not talk to me. Sometimes she left no food for me. At times she would sort of chase me through the house, shouting at me, and sometimes she would throw things at me. The drinking started, she ate less, and smoked more. I knew then that I was not small and weak because I was from a economically lesser background, but because of her. The emotional consequences reemerged and I became sick. I had been ill often as a child. Likely because I was kept indoors, fed poorly, frequently stressed, lived in squalor, and was unsupervised. One day the illness didn’t go away.
When I was about forteen years old after a long period of dental disintegration caused by malnutrition, five molars and premolars ruptured. Most of the teeth were on the right side of my jaw. While my dad was at work he relied on her to arrange my appointments. She didn’t. Soon, I had an acute dental abscess and I was in abject agony for months. I spent a lot of time sleeping and crying. I was too immature to deal with the problem myself. My immaturity and inability to engage with the world practically was mediated by my isolation from it. I lost all five teeth. Today the bone that would have anchored the missing teeth has been absorbed by my body. The degree of absorption means that my face has less bone structure on the right side, and consequently my face is extremely asymmetrical. I am technically disfigured.
I was in frequent pain during the last two years of secondary school and I started to develop severe acne. During the summer holidays I acquired hepatitis A from a gay pride festival. There were feces all over the cubicle, even in the sink. I was ill for six weeks and suffered with a lingering viral arthritis. During that time my mother left me on the floor with symptoms that are comparable to the flu. She didn’t move me, visit me, allow my siblings to see me or feed me. My dad would check on me before and after finishing work. I was later informed by a doctor that my liver had almost failed. The hepatitis marks the advent of my severe acne, which I suffered with for over three years.
College was extremely difficult. By this point I was disfigured, chronically ill, and suffering with severe acne. Somehow I managed to acquire a boyfriend. He and his family thought little of me, and his apparent feelings for me seemed to be manufactured by his ideals, a mutual emotional connection, and his low standards. I was frequently insulted by other people at college, in the street, and in my boyfriend’s home. I began to disintegrate in all the ways a person can. It was slow. My mother started to abuse my father, first verbally, then indirectly and directly in a physical way. She started drinking more. Eventually he hit her back. She claimed that he had domestically abused her, he spent a night in a cell, and we were homeless. Soon my boyfriend left me.
Most of the time I simply struggled to survive psychologically and situationally. I watched my nails break, my skin become pale and refuse to heal, my hair fall out, my energy plummet, and my body suffer. It was unbearable. At one point I was suffering from six conditions simultaneously. Soon I had no one. Soon I stayed indoors as much as possible. Soon I lived another life in fantasy. By the end of college I lived with my dad in a tower block opposite a drug dealer and my grades had dropped off. I was no longer a high achiever. I had nothing. Despite this I applied for philosophy at university and was successful in my application. I dreamt of self-renewal and transformation. On some level I was planning my recuperation.
During this time my mother had managed to drink herself into a coma. Her spleen had ruptured, she developed pneumonia, her lung was punctured and infected, and she had four heart attacks. On her medical certificate it said “alcohol abuse”. My siblings were put into emergency foster care. Before my mother fell into the coma, she had put a restraining order on my father linked to our old house. I saw my siblings only a few times over the course of eightteen months. Eventually my mother recovered and my siblings came to live with her in supervised accommodation. She is still under the watchful eye of the social services today.
Throughout the run up to university I participated in a few short courses and organised the logistics of my new life. When I arrived I was still ill. I may have suffered from depression at this point. As weak as I was I struggled to keep up and adapt to the demands of university. Somehow I acquired a new boyfriend who claimed to believe that there was something inside of me, that would allow me to surpass the austerity of my life. Unlike my previous boyfriend, who might be described as an energy vampire, my current boyfriend is extremely supportive. At the end of the academic year I was in a slightly better position and had achieved a 1.1.
Me and my father moved to a new property in August and my siblings visit us every Saturday. By this point I finished a course of accutane and one problem petered off for a while. Predictably my mother threw my younger sister out as soon as the associated financial benefits became uncertain, and she became difficult to handle. She now lives with us. From August to November I used the my new found confidence and self preservation capabilities to overhaul my diet, hair routine, skin care routine, supplement stack, oral posture and trained to run 5km. I went back to the first year of university, by changing my course to psychology, as to create time and resources for self-renewal. I made a deposit of £1380 for a dental implant which is scheduled for January, and will take about three to six months from start to finish. And acquired a total of ten 30% glycolic acid peels which I may not be able to use because of recent developments.
Unfortunately I experienced a sudden onset of erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, or type one rosacea, likely facilitated by vascular damage caused by accutane. I am currently in the process of researching the condition, acquiring a diagnosis and treatment. Consequently I am focusing on treating the chronic gut issues I have suffered with since the age of fourteen, and my new skin condition.
And here we are, welcome to the present. For the last four days, I have barely left the house, my stomach has been hurting, I have abdominal spasms, I have been anxious, flushing, stressed, my office is a mess, my hair is dirty, I have been sleeping erratically, and I have lost my appetite. I am at a low, and what a perfect place to start a journey it is.
This blog will detail my life as I try to grapple with what has happened to me, and I try to make something of myself despite the odds.
Welcome to A Useful Obsession.