A Recovering 'Hot Mess'

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Preface - 

I feel it's incredibly narcissistic to describe myself as 'hot'. I've never really seen myself as attractive, but I was most definitely a mess, and not in a romantic sense.

It was ugly.

It wasn't until I was twenty-three that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which, in some ways I find amusing. My behaviour at twenty-three, although bad enough to land me in psychiatric ward was not nearly as tumultuous as when I was a teenager.

As a teenager I embodied the hot mess trope. Looking back, it is certainly difficult to align myself with that teenager. I did so many things to be ashamed about, but I'm not shamed enough to not speak of these things.

The shame I do feel forever centres on how I treated those around me, rather than how I treated myself. I am not embarrassed by my physical scars, of suicide attempts or inpatient stays. I am, though, embarrassed by cheating on boyfriends, of being arrested, of putting each and every family member through hell and then back again.


Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen I was in my first real relationship. I was definitely not my best version when I was with him, and I did so many terrible things in that relationship. I do not wish to label myself as having a diagnosable mental illness at that time, but my behaviour was far more destructive than usual teenage angst.

I was self harming regularly, restricting my food intake, abusing drink and drugs under a guise of 'having fun'. Even now I'm unsure what, if anything, I was trying to achieve. It happened though, and I thankful each day that that boyfriend forgave me to become one of my oldest friends.


Whilst at work the other night I mused on twitter this history of mine. I use the term 'hot mess' to describe myself because for some bizarre unfathomable reason, throughout all my terrible behaviour there was a steady stream of men - some lasted months, others lasted only a night. 

I'm 100% sure that some of these men preyed on me, as they saw a vulnerable young adult who treated herself like such shit they accurately believed they too would be able to treat me in a similar manner.

I remember once feigning extreme drunkenness so I didn't have to have sex with a man on the beach - despite that I'd orchestrated the situation I'd found myself in. I lost my virginity to a man who admitted he was using me for sex because (as he rationed it), I was leaning on him emotionally. (This man later, after many years, apologised to me, but that's another story). 

I'd call men at all hours of the day while drunk or high. I don't even remember why I called them, but I know many of them I had sex with, at some time or another. It's all rather sordid really.


Then there were men that came blazing in on their white horses, expecting to be able to save me from myself. These men that had all the arrogance to believe that they would be the one to tame me. 

It's laughable now, that some of these men that thought they could save me only thought that because they were men and men are right and powerful - and how often are we presented with stories of women, of girls, living on the edge that are ultimately saved by a man?

Some of the men I knew, they meant well. I won't tarnish them all with the same brush. Some had their hearts in the right place and they genuinely wanted to somehow help me. Some just saw a quick and easy lay and a way to establish themselves as 'man'.


It wasn't just sex though. Regularly I'd have no money for food, but I still somehow clawed enough from the corners of homes for a bottle of wine, a spliff - anything that could take me out from who I was. I'd starve myself the day after a heavy night of drinking because I didn't deserve food, or whatever stupid idea my brain had come up with.

I self harmed with increasing ferocity, including biting myself deep enough to break the skin. Open wounds on my breasts and a low cut top, infections and stitches.


But that was then.

These days my eyes are no longer hazed with drink and drugs. My edges have been softened. I am kinder to myself and kinder to others. I eat, and fairly well at that too. I exercise, I yoga and go to sleep at ten pm.

It's all rather boring and I'm not supposed to say that.


Growing up was tough, but only because I made it so. It's difficult to live the life of a 'hot mess', and now when I watch or read or see anything that romanticises this idea of the 'crazy, hot' female I wince and I cower, because I lived it.

And I did, at times, love it.

There was such a high to the impulsive, often dangerous behaviour I exhibited - and as exhausting as it was, there was some fun to be had. So it is, in some ways, natural to miss it. 

Life is better now though, through therapy, medication and growth I doubt I would fit the archetype of 'hot mess'. This is not to say that I don't have my moments, I do! My highs come in a different form now, although I am still unequivocally shit with money. (Girl needs more DM's).

My past, in all it's gory details, has shaped the person I am today, and the internal work to settle between who I was and who I am will be, (of this I am sure) a lifelong mission.

I am protective of the person I once was, she was young, and although a mess, she was brave. Brave with her heart and her choices. There was a fire in her, that I still look to at times, a force of nature that could not be dampened despite the self-harm and suicide attempts, and for that I'm grateful. 

Sex, Mental HealthErin Veness