Cave Dweller Me needs love too

There’s a bit in my head, a bit that won’t leave, firmly nestled in there pulling on my energy and attention in between the pulsing goo and sinew. It’s the bit that feels loneliness the deepest, that is so sad she can make me cry on a sunny day, the one that makes me feel alone in a room full of loved ones, sometimes she has the loudest voice in there. And I know it’s Me, at least it sounds a lot like Me.

I call her Cave Dweller, not only because it matches my initials CD, but because she is hiding in darkness, wild and gloomy and hermit like. She keeps me away from the positive, grateful me, she steals my inner joy, smears the windows so that I can’t see the horizon when I am lost in a stormy sea.

She tells me dark dirty untruths about myself, but so convincing is she that sometimes her stories are the only ones that I can recall.

She hates me. She tells me that I am worthless, reminds me that I am undeserving of love, that I am alone and unloved. And she is gleeful in it sometimes, the bitch. But I have to befriend her, and show her that she will not burn in the light, that not everyone will hurt us, that trusting others is a risk worth taking, that I will look after her and together we can step away from the shadows and breathe clean air and get through anything together. If I punish her it only serves to break internal relations down further.

She is bitter and mutters away and I try to drown her out with a clear crisp voice but it doesn’t always work. Last night she told me that I was alone and abandoned, and I found myself lying in the dark listing everyone that I knew for sure loved me, my mum and dad and sisters (beyond that I swing between surety and uncertainty), but she spoke far louder and quicker than I could. My voice came out small and shaky and unconvinced. I can feel it, this deep familiar knowing, it is not a thought but a sense of self, that I am no good and wrong. And she speaks to me in sharp daggers while I repeat the mantras I love myself, I love myself, I love myself, and I am good enough, I am good enough, I am good enough, over and over again, before my body finally gives in to sleep.

Today I start the day anew and instead of two warring sides, I let myself sit empty and sad, because it is close enough to calm. I try to fill in with music and dancing and thoughts of all good things. But good ‘things’ are only temporary, and I know the greatest healing is done from within.

I try to coax her out, to soothe her, but she lives on fear and controls the guts of me. So for now I sit and observe her, one hand always outstretched, lest she decides to join me in living.

BiKin(d)i Body

I’m finally accepting that I am not gonna have that totally rocking bikini body I was working towards this summer…again.

On account of the fact that I’ve been busy living my life, having fun, and being the awesome friend, lover, sister, daughter and cat mama that I am. Sometimes that means stuffing my face, not working out, being lazy and not stressing over looking a certain way. I’ve also recently tried out two new medications, attended college classes, made new friends and started preparing to move house, so losing weight has taken a back seat, while I focus on other things that contribute towards a good quality of life.

I’ve lost nearly 5 stone in the last year, yes I’ve got more to lose but that’s a pretty awesome achievement so far, and I know I’m getting better at finding a good healthy balance and keeping off everything I’ve lost.

So I’m going on holiday and a couple more festivals soon and I’m gonna wear some minimalist clothing, including some bikini based attire. And I’m gonna dance like fuck, and bits of me are gonna jiggle and bounce. And you can judge and compare and criticise if you like, or you know, you could just look away, or stare in awe at the audacity of this chunky but funky chick with insane dance moves!

Last weekend I went out wearing a very short dress and some awesome fishnets that I’ve had for years but not been able to fit into for a while. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to bare legs in public for literally years! And while I was dancing I was aware of my amazing chunky thighs that help me stomp, wiggle and march places were exposed and wobbling and I felt nothing but fucking empowered and happy! And I got nothing but compliments all evening, confidence is everything!

I’m done stressing over how much space I occupy with my physical body. My health is something I battle for every day and I’m getting really good at looking after my body, and loving and accepting it, is a huge part of that. I never got very far with hating my body, every time I’ve been successful with weight loss it’s been when I’ve come from a place of love and respect for my body rather than self loathing. I still have really bad spells, and mega ups and downs to contend with but compared to this time last year my spirit is well and truly shining, good luck trying to hoist and restrain that in lycra any time soon!

One Step Closer

This week brings the news of Chester Bennington’s, lead singer of Linkin Park, passing, death by suicide, or depression to be precise.

Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory came out in 2000, when I was 16 years old, during the height of my teenage angst, and firmly rooted in a bout of severe depression. I recall walking around my home town listening to it on repeat on my personal CD player, when bunking off school, or late at night when, unable to sleep, I’d sneak out of the house and walk the dark streets alone, reclaiming my territory with the absence of bullies and small minded townies. I pranced about my bedroom screaming the lyrics to the likes of Papercut, One Step Closer, and Runaway into my hairbrush many a time and bawled my eyes out to In The End. A Place For My Head was somewhat of an anthem of mine, giving me hope for a future life outside of the restrictions of school and small townsville and rural living.

In the years that followed my music tastes changed and developed and I can’t say I followed their progression as a band, but over the years I have come back to that album time and time again, in times of struggle and sadness. It has helped me to vent and reconnect with my inner teenage child on many occasions, has been a crucial part of my own music therapy, and it’s an album that I rarely skip a track on.

Today I have listened to Hybrid Theory, and danced about and sang along as I always do, and thought about what it means to lose someone that you never knew personally, but who shared so much of themselves, someone who made an impact on your life, despite you having never met them or felt their presence in person.

And of course it made me very sad.

It is unfathomable sometimes that someone with all that means, in terms of the best therapy and experiences that money can buy, the holidays and retreats that were accessible to them, the adoration, attention and love that they could have called on their fans for..could still choose to end their life that way. But the truth is that all means nothing, when you become so unreachable and worn down by depression, and whatever else may have been going on their life.

There becomes a disconnect in your brain, it’s like an outer body experience, where you just can’t reach yourself, or anyone, and nothing make sense any more, nothing feels real, there is no way to feel comfortable in your own skin, the only familiar thing is your own fucking pain and a feeling that nothing will ever be right again. And you’ve been there so many times and it just keeps coming back stronger, and you just run out of fucks to give, for yourself, for the future, for anything you’ve lived through, for anything that you could become. And you feel so fucking isolated and tired, it’s just exhausting all the time. And you begin to feel like a burden, because the weight that you carry is so great that you can’t possibly expect anyone else to carry it for you, so you have to take it with you. Because only then will it die, when you kill it.

Except it doesn’t end there. Not for those you leave behind. It just evolves, into a new pain, an emptiness, a dark void where you used to be, and everyone who ever loved you, who ever cared, even just a little bit gets to divide that pain between them and carry for the rest of their lives.

If I ever chose to end my life by hanging, I’ll tell them in my suicide note to tell them it was auto-erotic asphyxiation, so they don’t have to feel the pain of feeling like they could have helped me, and prevented me from doing that, when the reality is that they probably couldn’t.

Everytime someone dies this way people cluck that at least it ‘starts a conversation’, brings about ‘awareness’, but the truth is nothing much changes unless the help available changes, why are so many people, even those with access to the best possible care, still losing their lives to their mental illness? I want to believe that this will be the last high profile suicide before people started demanding better, realising what was needed and lacking, because if people who live the dream and ‘succeed’ in life are still so prone to this violent end, then what hope do the rest of us have? I don’t have the answers, but I do know ‘the conversation’ needs moving along, we need to be more than One Step Closer to a solution, and fast.

The opposite of feeling suicidal, is feeling connected to anything other than yourself, anything outside of your own head and pain.

Please, if you ever start to feel that way, don’t get lost inside yourself, so far gone that you forget that people can and do get beyond those feelings and thoughts eventually. There are always ways to move and shift to a place of comfort outwith the mental torture. I know it’s hard, and I feel like a hypocrite because I know I haven’t felt suicidal for the last time in my life either, but I can’t give in to it, not now, not ever, and I urge you to not give up either. Please reach outwards not inwards, and remember that enough people give a shit about you that you are still here. Please don’t feel as though the world would be better off without you, because you matter, really you do.

And In the End, Chester, you mattered too.

XXX

Enjoy yourself- it’s later than you think! (A two part ramble on the pressure to have fun)

Part One: Pre-festival fear

This weekend I’m off to a music festival. It’ll be my second one of the season, and truth is, I’m dreading it.

The last one I was at was difficult for personal reasons that had occurred in the week before, and even though I ended up enjoying most of it, and helping my dad celebrating a big birthday in style with lots of people who I love, it was really, really hard work at times, exhausting emotionally, mentally and physically. This one is a bit of a pre-birthday treat as I’m turning 33 the following week.

For one thing I’m going to be on my period, ladies you know how this goes, stock up on applicator tampons, carry a perma stash of loo roll and wet wipes and pray it’s not a sore one! Practicalities aside I’ll be hormonal, spotty, bloated and possibly grumpy. It’s not a local festival so it’s a bit of a debacle getting there, with all our camping equipment, and we’re having to collect our tickets in person in an unfamiliar city (the plus side is they’ve been gifted to me by someone- so will be received with much gratitude!)

There’s always a need, no matter how fleeting, to be vigilant when it comes to my sobriety too. I need to brace myself to be around temptation and remind myself of why I can’t just go with the flow and risk getting caught up in the moment, it’s just not worth it. Realistically I never am that tempted, but often before a big hedonistic event I need to have a word with myself, and that involves facing some dark moments from my past and thinking of loved ones lost to addiction and recklessness. I’ll never be anti drink or drugs, and will always understand why people use them, but I will always have to keep myself from thinking that I can have the same relationship with them that other people have. It is a door that I have walked through and firmly closed behind me. But I’ll never be able to throw away the key, lest I think a clean slate means I have the ability to start a fresh relationship with them. I always have to carry that key and realise that I have the power to make that choice every day, there is no one but me responsible for that, it is both a place of empowerment and vulnerability.

The main worry I have just now is that I feel like time is slipping away from me. I worry that I am not doing enough with my life, that I will get depressed again and be unable to enjoy the things I used to, and that my sobriety will start to feel like a chore again, that maybe I have to avoid certain occasions because they are too risky for me, the whole thing is challenging in so many ways, and it is supposed to be fun! And isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing at every given opportunity? Enjoying our lives? I feel so strongly about this, especially after I stayed in and missed out on so much for so many years because of my health. I feel like I should be grabbing every opportunity and running with it now that I am well and fit enough again. I know this pressure is mainly coming from myself, and my awareness of my own mortality, I’m not even gonna blame social media, or advertising or youth culture or my peers, although it undoubtedly could be argued that they contribute to these feelings. I find myself capable of ruining fun things before they’ve happened, because of bad toxic thinking habits, it’s like I’m sabotaging myself in new ways, when I could just be getting reckless and smashed like old me!

When I miss out on events I feel isolated and as trapped as when I literally shut myself away from the outside world and couldn’t get passed my own doorstep without feeling like the sky was falling in on me. I turned down too many invitations, made so many excuses, justified my absence by lying to myself and others about how terrified I was, to be around other people, or go to new places, just to exist in my own skin. Now I feel obliged almost, to take advantage of my regained confidence, to reclaim myself by enjoying and exposing myself to as many fulfilling experiences as possible. I feel that by avoiding or refusing opportunities I am depriving myself of delicious, precious slices of life, when I’ve already been robbed of so many by debilitating illnesses. ‘Well’ me and manic me will often make plans that ‘ill’ me cannot fulfil, so I can’t allow ‘stable’ me to ruin good times by simply feeling unenthused.

I know that perfectly healthy and neurotypical people feel similar self imposed pressure, I just don’t quite know how best to deal with it, apart from accept and forgive myself for backing out or saying no, and acknowledging that I can’t be full steam ahead for all things hedonistic. And remember that it’s natural and okay to feel apprehensive about new experiences, even exciting ones.

Part Two: Post festival relief

Well what an incredible weekend that turned out to be! I ended up asking for help getting there and back from a wonderful friend, making it so much easier than using public transport. We collected our tickets easily enough, despite a cancelled train, we detoured via an amazing veggie all day breakfast and it all worked out good in the end. (Cheesy crumpets by the way, just might be the future).

I really manage to pick up on the atmosphere of my environment, and while that can be crushing at times, especially when I start to absorb other people’s pain and can’t detach myself from it, or separate it from my own, it does have its uses. It’s a skill that I’d love to develop and learn to master, at the moment it can cause me a lot of grief, and I can’t find the ‘on/off’ button. But this weekend I was able to use it to my advantage, the more hyped and playful people got, the more I got involved and felt at ease, and my inner wild child came out to play.

My mum tells me my dad observed and remarked at a children’s party once that it was me who was winding all the other kids up, getting them all hyper and silly and encouraging the gorging on sugar! (a born addict I tell ya!) Evidently I’m still very much in touch with that part of myself!

Anything and everything that made me dance into a state of euphoria and grin my face off kept me going, even as the sky water poured down on us, nothing was getting through my shield (or waterproof mac and shades) of ‘fuck yeah, this is what we live for!’ There was so many beautiful moments of feeling the bass rattle through me, laser beams shooting over me, connecting with glowing and gurning strangers, and stomping around nature and trees with wild abandon that just made me feel so alive and connected and at home with myself and the world. Planet festival is quite a place to be!

I got a bit tired and grumpy as the level of debauchery and carnage peaked and the collective stumbling of the weekend warriors got a bit overwhelming on the Sunday, and I had a small panic as a very friendly and overly generous stranger shoved a bottle of poppers (amyl nitrate) under my nose- it was hardly gonna awaken the sesh monster in me and send me on a spiral of debauchery and self destruction, BUT it was enough of a violation of my personal space to give me momentary anxiety and I had to work hard for about 2 hours not to throw a shit fit at my growing annoyance, claustrophobia and vulnerability. Despite my lovely crew starting to need a wee bit more help in performing basic human functions like walking, eating and remembering what they wanted to see and when, getting more easily confused and forgetting to sleep once in a while, I managed not to punch any of them, so well done me (and them).

So today is my 33rd birthday. I woke up alone, (even the cat had fucked off to catch the early bird while it was catching the worm) and I felt a bit lonely, after having been with all those beautiful people and constant noise and colourful stimulation. And I got a bit sad because I haven’t planned anything, rather sensibly, because I didn’t know where my energy levels would be at, but it’s a beautiful sunny day and I felt I should be out ‘there’, somewhere, doing alll the ‘things’, because I am an exciting and beautiful, sociable person! (when I’m not being a shy, introverted shut-in). I spoke to my mum on the phone who reminded me there’s more sunshine to come, and that it was perfectly reasonable to take today as a rest day, especially after having stomping around fields for 3 days, living off sweet potato fries, protein shakes and chewing gum. And so I did what any 33 year old would do on a Tuesday; I did some adulting! I unpacked my festival stuff, aired my sleeping bag, washed my festie clothes, did some dishes, and ate left over pizza and a cookie for breakfast. I opened some cards and pressies and sent thank you texts and responded to birthday messages.

And now I shall potter round the garden in short shorts and a ridiculously small crop top from China and a sequin cap that says Pow! on it, (because I am a sophisticated grown up now) and a new silver star bracelet, a beautiful present from my friend! I shall enjoy the feeling of the sun on my skin, and being on my own, in the peace and quiet, (apart from the blaring drum and bass I’ve put on) feeling safe and smug and grateful for the gift that is life, and appreciate that growing older is a privilege denied to too many. Then a bit later there will be a picnic lunch and cake with my mum and sister, those who have seen me through this life so far, and know just how much I have to be grateful for now.

I’ve also had text messages from beloved friends and family who’ve just remembered its my birthday, who’ve ‘nearly’ got round to posting my card/pressie, and haven’t got round to getting me anything ‘yet’, I am loving the honesty, thank you for keeping it real with me! Life can be chaotic, and its all too easy to punish ourselves for forgetting and missing out on occasions and events and feel inadequate. We’re all human, even the super efficient ones, and we’re all doing our best, and even when we’re not, who are any of us to judge, even ourselves?

I’m another year further away from the year I thought I’d finally have my shit together, and rather than panic, I’m embracing the truth that I am just a little bit more together inside, a bit more at peace with who I am, and how I am, and today I’m gonna give myself the grown up present of being present, and calm- having survived another amazing weekend sober- and rest, with the mantra ‘Pace yourself, it’s earlier than you think!’

Besides, it’s only 3 days til the weekend… til the sober sesh monster is back out in her dancing shoes… and until then I just got given an amazing new speaker.. sorry neighbours!

 

Why I’m writing my life story at aged 32

I’ve started writing, again, I’m attempting, not for the first time, to write my whole life story, from the beginning, until present day, with a few detours.

I’m thinking of calling it ‘Not dead yet Mofo’ or perhaps ‘Fat Fairies Can Fly’.

I was once told by a complete random at a rave, whilst dressed in fairy wings and size 14 jeans, that ‘fat fairies can’t fly.’ My face must’ve fallen, or perhaps he realised I was quite young and actually very pretty for a fat bird because he looked instantly guilty and apologised. I smiled and told him ‘I’m already flying!’ because I am resilient and kind and was off my tits. But it’s stayed with me, it still stings a bit to recall that, and that’s exactly why I want to write about my life.

I’ve seen some thing man, awful terrible things. And some of these things still have the ability to hurt me as though they happened yesterday.

Writing is pretty much the only therapy that I have at the moment. I am a sensitive soul, with some sort of weird brain function (or lack of) and I seem to be able to write about it in ways that people can relate to, even the darker stuff, especially the darker stuff.

I’ve tried to write more positive stuff (I do a good sideline in erotic fiction) and although I enjoy it, it’s not my strong point, perhaps because I am not as well practised in the art of happiness where as I’ve used writing as a way of dealing with some of the more difficult emotions and events since I was a child.

I’ve always wanted to help people, for my bad experiences to be put to some good use so it hasn’t all been nothing, beyond me developing my own wisdom and self awareness. So I figure writing about it could help someone, anyone who’s been through similar, or perhaps wants to understand some of the issues I write about like mental illness, addiction and childhood sexual abuse.

There are certain people and identities that I need to protect, certain stories I cannot tell fully, because they overlap with others life stories that are not mine to tell. Other people are no longer around to defend themselves or give their side of the story, so I have to take great care in how I share my past, I will undoubtedly have to omit certain details. Even if it is never published, or only read by a few loved ones, it will be out there, it will spill a drop of myself turned to a ripple into a wave, of what, I don’t know.. inspiration? Honesty? Authenticity? Validation?

But mainly I am writing this for me, in the hope that the purge will help rid me of some demons, heal some old wounds, clear a way for new thoughts and motivation and memories. I hope that it will encourage me to write more, to be more ambitious, to spread my wings in terms of what I write about.

I want to do it now while I have the time and the will to get myself out of this rut that I am in. I’m in the slow process of trying new treatment for ADHD, but my NHS support is limited and I only really have myself to rely on to get me out of this.

My good friend told me to stop procrastinating and work with what I’ve got, and so I am.

It is time for this fat fairy to fly.

What do you do?

It’s the question all unemployed people with an invisible illness dread, “And what do you do?

It’s the verbal equivalent to ‘The Big Boss’ coming through your workplace and even though you’re working bloody hard, the concentration brow deepens, your moves become more exaggerated as you panic to ‘Look Busy!’ and indisposable.
The stomach flips, the heart sinks, I’m about to be judged for not paying taxes, my social status is about to drop to somewhere between Jeremy Kyle contestant and pasty thieving seagull, plus I’m at risk of revealing some very personal details about the contents of my health records. Do I lie? Exaggerate the truth? Avoid the question? Whip out a mood chart and give a full history of my health?
So how do you answer such a personal, loaded question without making yourself feel too vulnerable?

Really it depends on the scenario. If someone is genuinely trying to get to know you, a potential love interest for example, then you might want be honest from the start, your health and finances are inevitably going to affect things. But if it’s at a distant cousin’s wedding it’s all in the name of polite chitchat so you don’t need to give much away at all.

The single best answer to that question that I’ve ever been encouraged to use:
I do wonders.
It deflects the question, shows wit and confidence, retains an air of mystery and let’s people know that you’re not ready to give that information away or not playing into that game. It throws the other person off and makes it harder for them to persist with that type of questioning. If they do persist then they’re possibly a bit rude and judgemental and you probably don’t really need that kind of person in your life, it tells you a lot about them and their values. But fear not, there’s other ways to dodge the question.
Humour: “Not much in the kitchen but I’m great in bed” (best not to use that for the future in laws)
Vagueness: “I wouldn’t want to bore you with it.”                           Partial Honesty: ‘I’m in between jobs at the moment’ (omitting the fact that it’s been 2 years since your last job and you’re not currently looking).
In the past I’ve replied ‘I don’t work full time at the moment due to my health but I used to work in retail management’ this gives people a (false) sense of your social class, education, ambition and also gives them enough that they’ll choose not to pry further. You’ve been quite honest with them and they’ll be pushing their luck and common decency if they require more than that.
The downside is that some people will then inevitably ask ‘So what do you do with your time?‘. Again vagueness can be useful ‘I use it sparingly/wisely’ might suffice.

The number one golden rule is: You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

In fact I have one friend who flat out refuses to answer that kind of question, they simply say ‘Do you mean what do I do for money? I don’t talk about that.’
People often ask questions that they want to be asked so be quick to ask them lots of questions in return. It’s sidestepping the question but in some cases people aren’t really that interested in your answer anyway.
You can start out by saying ‘Well in my spare time I..’ and insert your really interesting hobby, people are much more likely to latch into that and ask more about it and they’re still getting to know more about the real you and moving the conversation along to safer territory.

You can refer to your most recent job, or tell them about any volunteering you do, I’ve been known to pad out my ‘verbal cv’ by telling them lots at once- they don’t need to know my work is sporadic and non paid, and I’ve listed literally every volunteering event I’ve done in the last 5 years.

If you’re a parent ‘I’m a full time mother to two children‘ is a good response, and you can then talk about the children instead of yourself. Even after they grow up this can be used as a ‘get out clause’ although why ‘women’s work’ isn’t valued as much as paid work I will never know (duh patriarchy). But that’s a whole other blog post.

I have another friend who retired some years ago, who has since become a ‘semi retired poet’. This seems to please enough people as it gives them an idea of their stage in life and also a tasty titbit about one of their hobbies/passions, one that they’re happy to talk about and something that people find interesting.

Most people don’t care what you actually do they are just trying to get to know you and find common ground.

I have friends who are chefs, tradesmen, solicitors, work in I.T, childcare, none of these are the reasons why they’re interesting and good company. None of these jobs make me feel like I’m in respectable company, or like they’re better people because of what they do, although I do admire anyone with a good work ethic who finds a good work/life balance because I’ve found that balance hard to find. The truth is I love and respect them as people because they’re funny, they’re good djs, they’re good conversationalists, they’re good dads, they’re kindhearted and generous and complex, imperfect, beautiful human beings.

The deep, loving connections we are all searching for are cultivated and nurtured over time, until then we bond over music, dancing, food, pop culture (or hatred of), books, movies, all of the superficial components of daily life that we can all relate to. These are the icebreakers which can warm us up to a person, or give us a sense of where people’s true passions lie. The common ground is a playing field after all!
Above all remember that just as you are more than your illness, you are so much more than what you do for a living or how much money you make (or don’t). For every one flaw or failing you can find in yourself, even with a C.V littered with potholes of sick days and a long history of dropping out, your true friends can find 5 reasons why they love and value you in an instant. This applies to everyone so please allow others the same kindness when you find out what they do for a living (even if they work in advertising).
This blog is dedicated to Andy who passed away recently. He did wonders. 

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Hidden Strength

Because I am sensitive and sometimes too quick to respond to my emotions, it is easy for you to see me as fragile and forget that I am a strong person.

You don’t see that every day I am fighting, sometimes with myself or the past, or trauma, but I am getting up and doing and surviving.

You don’t acknowledge that I am growing, in wisdom, and understanding others more through my willingness to face my struggles.

You ignore that I am transforming, by seeking truth through self knowledge and retrospection.

You’re unaware that I am forgiving those who have hurt me, left me, let me down, used me; that I am forgiving myself and extending my love and kindness to people who may not always deserve it or try to earn it.

You don’t always witness me steadying myself before and after and during the emotional storms that I weather.

You forget that I am always balancing myself against the push and pull of my moods and energy levels, and sometimes that means becoming firm ground where there is none to be found.

You dismiss that I am nurturing myself by saying ‘no’ or taking rest or being gentle with myself that day.

You must remember that I am healing, simply by addressing all my wounds in the first place.

You miss that I am creating, with my words and art and channeling my emotions into something good, something positive.

You should know that I am constantly challenging myself and the world around me, by defying the hand that life has given me.

You don’t realise that I am loving you so fiercely, because no matter how low or distant I feel, I see only the best in you and I appreciate everything that you bring to my life that little bit more.

You forget that I am staying kind hearted and open minded despite it all, and to do so in a world that can be so cold and cruel, is courage itself.

You only see the tiredness and sadness in my eyes because you don’t know I’ve been up all night fighting demons to keep them from the landscape of ‘Us’. You don’t know that I am carrying this for both of us, to protect you from them, so they don’t become your burden too. Every day I am fighting, and if they ever come for you, you’ll know just how strong I can be.

You are the reason.

“I love to write and I’ve written for my own sanity since I was a child. I write because if I don’t I will cease to see any clarity and look for meaning in all the wrong places.” Me

There’s a thousand selfish reasons why I write, but here is why I choose to share it:

YOU.

You are the reason.

I share my writing, no matter how deep and painful it is because of You.

You are the ones who message me to say ‘thank you’ for letting you know you are not alone, that it’s okay to feel vulnerable and find life hard; the ones who are relieved that others absolutely suck at adult life sometimes. You are the ones who aren’t allowed to let your vulnerability show because your job is too demanding, your social status is too fragile, your children need you to be strong and unafraid, your family doesn’t ‘believe’ in mental illness, your partner just doesn’t understand it.

You are the ones who are up all night with insomnia, guiding each other through the torment of that exclusive ‘after hours club’ that nobody chooses to be a member of.

You’re the ones whose friend or mother or son or brother has suffered with their mental health so you’ve lived with it in your peripheral vision, wondering and sometimes worrying that you might be next.

You are the 1 in 4 with a mental illness.

You’re those who say ‘I write to survive too!’ who express yourselves as a way to get through the week, and share your words with me.

I share it for the ones that might be inspired to write too.

And if people who don’t have any experience with mental illness get just a bit of a clue because I haven’t tried to bullshit them or hide it away like a shameful dark secret and it gives them the confidence to reach out to a struggling friend or compel them to campaign for better services then that’s just a wonderful bonus.

I share for anyone who idly reads it and recognises ‘Shit yes, this is what it’s like to be human’ and it makes them feel better about themselves.

I write for my self preservation, for my soul to have an outlet, a way of making sense of my tangled mixed up senses, a way of lashing out safely, but I share, I share it because if I have to suffer (as life insists we all do) then I want it to be for some good reason, to make it worthwhile.

If I can help one person, at a moment where I can’t even help myself, then that is a beautiful, positive thing.

And when I find better solutions and answers to how I deal with it all, then I share those too, and I will share the happier moments to inspire and prove that we can overcome and move forward, if only for a few days or weeks at a time.

Of course sometimes exposing myself like this scares me, it’s like walking out the front door naked, and I feel weak and like my lack of boundaries and ‘poor impulse control’ will get me into trouble again.

I know some people, even those who love and respect me, will cringe at my openness and honesty, but that’s on them not me. I can’t control people’s responses to my truthfulness or creativity.

Please don’t misunderstand, I value my privacy, and the privacy of those I write about. I respect other’s boundaries, I practise anonymity when it comes to others input. I don’t want to upset anyone or worry them too much or dwell in the darker side of what I have to contend with. But living in shame for something which is a really common issue isn’t good for me, and it isn’t good for those around me either. We can be so unrealistic about what life is supposed to be like, and have distorted views on what is considered strength and weakness, illness and wellness.

This is what I’m good at, like I actually fucking believe in myself a little bit here for once and no matter how many people recoil or reject that or disapprove, no one should want to take that away from me.

I worry that others will think I sit comfortably in the role of victim, that my illness makes up too much of my identity or that I’m attention seeking (of course my fragile ego is fond of praise, even if it makes me squirm sometimes, don’t dare tell me yours isn’t too!) but I genuinely wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t written my soul out on paper so many times, in so many different ways. And I wouldn’t have valued myself and gained the strength that I have without being honest enough to reach out, ask for help or come to understand myself like this.

Ultimately I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t sought comfort and understanding in the written words of others. So I’m paying it forward. To me that’s a sure sign of personal growth and progress, and my hope is that, that stuff spreads like wildfire!

The Weekend

This weekend was incredibly difficult, despite the sunny smiles in the FB pics of me larking around.

My head started going to shit on Thursday, the ‘bad bile’ crept in, as one friend calls it, a ‘chemical betrayal’ says another. I don’t know what triggered it exactly, but I felt anxious and scared and isolated and alone and I was generally crawling out of my skin by Friday afternoon.

In the evening I went and danced for a few hours with some lovely friends, I hugged some familiar faces , chatted with some new ones, and enjoyed the music. I left early with a friend , we went shopping and in the car I confessed I was having suicidal thoughts. Not that I was planning anything, just looking for the off button. I went home and I binge ate and I cried and I confided in them about how bad I felt about myself, about the self loathing I carry. They held me and comforted me and stayed the night with me.

The next day I write about it, to try and let some of it out, to reduce it somehow, to clear some space in my head.

My mum phoned and can tell from my voice things are not well, that I am not well. She asks has something in particular happened, can she do anything to help, will I come and visit her, am I able to get a taxi there, so I agree to get a taxi. A short while later my sister calls, she asks if she needs to call the taxi for me and I say yes because I’m still in bed and haven’t moved, and also I have no money so she offers to pay and calls one for me.

I put on yesterday’s clothes and throw some things in a bag. I feed the cat, she watches me crying as I pack and I feel guilty for leaving her. In the taxi I don’t speak, I wear my shades and I cry the whole journey. I badly want to drink and nearly ask them to stop at an off license but I know I can’t do that to my family, to myself. But I just want the pain to stop, I want to be numb or be dead.

I get to mums and I cry, heaving, ferocious, heart ringing tears. I hate them seeing me like this, hate anyone seeing me like this but them especially. Because they care the most and are completely powerless.

When u feel this low, like a piece of shit, you can’t feel anyone’s love and acceptance of you. You are unreachable.

They encourage me to take a walk with them in the early evening by the river, the fresh air is good but my legs feels like jelly. They feed me, buttery toast and a smoothie and a delicious salad and frittata. I ask for some paper and pens and do some art.

There are hugs there are talks about what I’m feeling, nothing is forced, it is gentle company but my brain is savagely whirring away creating doomsday prophecies, killing off friendships, torturing my relationships, watching my future go up in smoke.

I take a sleep tablet and the next day there is more nutrition, walks and art. There is love and oracle cards and laughter, tea and homemade fruit cake. It is cosy but strained. The hours are either slowly crunching by on stiffened cogs or melting away, lost in a hazy blank daze. There is comfort in hearing familiar voices and laughter even though it feels I am observing, like an outsider looking in, from a great distance. My sister tells me she is proud of me for the ways I cope now, for doing my art, for opening up, for joining in walks, for not turning to drink. This is progress, no matter how small.

When I think of going home I get angsty, my friend offers to collect me and I gratefully accept. She is a hero in these times, offering the little things that make all the difference. I am so blessed with love and kindness in my life. I can see that now, even though I can’t process it emotionally, can’t quite use it as proof that I am loveable or worthy of their care.

I go home , feed the cat, then collect my friend from the train station and we go and eat pizza in our onesies, it is afterall a Sunday. But they can see in my face , in my eyes, that I am different today, not my usual self, it is not even sadness, nor a wildness, they cannot quite place it and neither can I. I feel lost, exhausted, heartbroken. There are reassuring hugs and they listen to my fears. I feel safer but I am still not sure what is real anymore, where my toxic thoughts and feelings begin and end and what lies beyond my perception.

I attempt another early night and even though I am tired my brain is buzzing. I take a sleeping tablet but am awake an hour later still. So instead I write this.

Tomorrow I will get up and wash for the first time since Friday and my friend will drive me to College because she knows I need it, both the interaction and the encouragement to get there. She will light the path for me because we both know I want to be there but will struggle to get there and if I can convince myself to stay home I will. And that’s a slippery slope to nowhere. I have to keep going because if I give up today I will die soon.

I let so many people truly see me this weekend when I would usually hide away and isolate myself further, to my detriment. And today I’m exposing myself further on here. And as scary as that is, I feel I must be honest, be real.

Mental illness is all consuming at times, it steals minutes, hours, days, weeks, years of people’s lives, even during the best of times. You don’t get a choice when it poisons you, and you don’t always find yourself around the right support or making good choices.

This weekend was the worst I’ve been in a while and it was pretty scary. I was lucky to have people who love and care for me even when I can’t feel it.

I need professional help badly and it’s been lacking for months. I have fallen through the cracks of an overloaded system. This weekend real life earth angels stepped up and helped me through. And all I needed to do was allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help.

I wish that option for everyone, although I wouldn’t wish this mental instability on anybody. I am so very tired of it all. Those of us with long term mental illness know that we don’t need more ‘awareness’ being spread, even if it is changing attitudes, and highlighting contributing factors, what we really need is more resources, we need help. This weekend I got lucky, one day my luck might run out. That’s not a threat, or a cry for attention, or even a plea for help, it’s a reality that I face. And I know I’m not alone in that.

I hate myself

I want to be honest about how much I hate myself.

I feel like a piece of shit, like a worthless nothing. There’s no polite or beautiful way to put it.

It is not negative thoughts that can be batted away or questioned, or dismissed as opinion not fact, it is a deep sense of knowing. It’s so ingrained it’s hard to imagine things ever being any different. And I have tried mindfulness and positive affirmations, and self kindness and compassion therapy and CBT and mood boosting exercises and altering my appearance and habits, and it can work for a little while, minutes, hours, days… but then…

I just can’t outrun it. I just hate myself.

Last night I went dancing, to beautiful music with wonderful people, in one of my favourite places to go. And I was fighting off anxiety and self doubt all afternoon, I was shaking, felt sick, needed to go to the toilet about 40 times before leaving the house, but I dolled myself up and felt good for a while, and I danced and laughed and hugged my friends.  But when I stopped dancing I kept feeling the tears rise up so I had to start dancing again, give myself to the music and put myself into a trance so I didn’t have to be so aware of my own head, or myself.

And I left a little early before closing time with my friend, and we came home and I cried. And I confessed about how much I hated myself and how I can’t go on anymore and that I feel like I want to die. Because it’s all just too much for me.

I want you to know that when I’m smiling and laughing and dancing and hugging and loving others it is genuine, but in between I am often crying and empty and I am so tired of being this way. And it’s not getting any easier.

Please don’t tell me to try fresh air and yoga and meditate and eat whole foods, not because I don’t appreciate good intentions and advice, but because I have lived so long with this and tried to so many things and I feel like a failure because I just can’t seem to tap into the right combination of things for a sustainable amount of time to keep me on an even keel.

And I have glimpses of things being okay. I can appreciate my body, I can feel good about the clothes I wear, the way I present myself, the way I make people laugh. I can appreciate that I am essentially a good, kind person, that I have good qualities. But it never lasts and never feels as real as or as believable as the self loathing. It feels like I’ve been tricked into believing that I, that things, were going to be okay, and I am foolish for falling for it. It is like a chemical betrayal in my brain, like a temporary sedative that has worn off, because the self loathing feels like that natural state, not the confident and self assured me.

And I am so needy and insecure, so desperate for others attention and approval, because without it I am completely unbearably lost and alone and afraid, and the negative thoughts start to win and I hate myself for it.

So I just have to stumble through this hour, this day, this weekend, this week, with this familiar cloud hanging over me, trying to like myself and appreciate my life enough that I don’t want to die. That’s all I have right now. Survival.