The 34th retrospective: surprisingly not a miserable rant

Well, yet again it’s been a while since I posted. There are reasons for that. Some better than others. The eve of my 34th birthday seems like a good place to pick up again. Usually, I dislike my birthday far more than I dislike New Year’s Day, in terms of punitive self reflection and acknowledgments of my year of fail. This year I’ve been making a very conscious effort not to do that. It’s not generally like me to be relentlessly positive about the (fairly) arbitrary passing of a year. I’m sure a couple of my friends are actually pretty sick of hearing that it’s my birthday tomorrow. I haven’t even attempted to organise a celebration for a couple of years, but this year I am. THere’s a reason for that…

I haven’t posted for a little while and things have been sparse. I think that’s mostly because I started psychotherapy and have been engaging with it as fully as I can. When I have to spend that hour a week being as gut wrenchingly honest with myself as I have to be for it to be effective, it gets harder to let it all out on here I guess. Some of it’s so private and difficult for me to talk about that when I say those things to my psychotherapist I can’t look at her. A lot of the time it’s the first time I’ve ever said those things out loud. I can be pretty blasé about the historical facts with people, but talking about how those things have made me feel is another story. This time around psychotherapy is a lot more helpful. My therapist challenges me and helps me to reflect, but she has empathy. She reassures me that the way I feel is valid and understandable. That my shame is something about the way other people have made me feel. Sometimes she closes her eyes while I talk and there’s a sharp intake of breath. The first time it happened I thought it was boredom, or that I’d said something stupid but she explained it was because she understood the pain I was in. That it was so intense that it was hard for her to try and feel it herself. Despite how difficult it is, I am feeling the benefit of understanding how I’ve arrived at this place more easily. In time I’ll start to accept it. It’s already helping me take control of other parts of my life because I’m starting to understand why I feel the way I do more.

I’m still attending my art group and my creativity is moving in the right direction finally. Still no massive masterpiece to show, but I’m inching towards it again. I’m drawing more, and it’s not such a grinding chore to get started. Being around creative people on a regular basis is helping so much with that. It’s not just creativity, it’s support and the quiet calm of gentle socialising. In my darkest days, I was so isolated. I wouldn’t see anyone except doctors or support workers for days on end. I rattled around in my personal prison without the means of liberating myself. Now, once a week, I get to go and sit in a room with lovely people and paint. It doesn’t matter if my drawing isn’t perfect, or if I’m not feeling so awesome and just want to sit in a corner with my headphones on and have a battle with my sketch book. The comfort of being alone but still around company is immeasurable.

It’s been a year of such change… some of it has been really difficult. With my increasing emotional fortitude I’ve been able to get rid of some of the more dysfunctional relationships I have with people, because I no longer feel grateful if someone deems to be my friend. I’ve put up with a lot of things that have made me feel like shit, because, well, I’m me and I’m pushing my luck having friends. It’s still something I have to actively remind myself isn’t a valid or helpful way of treating myself. It’s keeping me in a cycle which makes it harder to handle my depression. It’s work, but it’s going to be worth it.

In short, yes I am celebrating my 34th. I’m not looking back on this year and rueing my lack of a university place (yet) or being back at work (yet) because I this year I have battled benefit sanctions, crap medication, bad friendships and the level of self-hatred that stopped me looking in a mirror because I wanted to cry. I have engaged in therapy, kept a regular attendance at an art group and survived it. My bed has stopped being my permanent place of residence. When I put makeup on at the moment, it’s not because I have to see normal people who I know and worry that they’re going to know how are I’ve fallen. This doesn’t work all the time, but these days or strength are becoming more frequent. I still have a long walk ahead of me, and there will be times I stumble, times I relapse. I am celebrating my 34th because for the first time in years, I’m not drowning in what could have been, I’m fucking proud of what I’ve done.

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But we’re not all like that …

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Blue Toyota toy car

“But we’re not all like that!” We’ve all said it, haven’t we? Read or heard something that seems to criticise a group we belong to or feel part of and said, “But we’re not all like that!” I know I have. It’s instinctive. Especially so for those working in social care or the NHS, perhaps even more so for those working in mental health which seems to get criticism from every angle. There are many committed, hard-working, professional, compassionate staff who do the best they can in difficult circumstances, make a  positive difference to people’s lives and do a really good job.

So when a dedicated  GP or mental health occupational therapist hears a story on the news about terrible care in a service elsewhere, he might say, “But not all of us are like that!” A compassionate doctor or psychiatric nurse will read a story about a patient abused…

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What Trolls will never learn.

Some of you will be aware that this week, I set up a petition calling for a U.K based online fancy dress shop to stop stigmatising people with mental illnesses by selling a range of costumes with such charming nomenclature as”Skitzo”, “Committed” “Psycho” “Confined” It’d surprise me if any of you reading this didn’t know that for several years now, at Halloween, people involved with mental health on a personal or professional level become very upset with the disability discrimination which is allowed to occur in the name of fun.

This happened after I contacted the shop, and in a very civil and genial way (I worked on phones for 7 years before I became a dangerous and violent nutcase) to say that I found the costumes offensive and was given a customer service email address the lady I spoke to. She admitted that I wasn’t the first person to contact them to make such a complaint. Within a few days I’d reached over 100 signatures and Norman Lamb MP had asked questions about banning such costumes. There was a piece in the BBC and in press local to the business involved. My name was on these pieces, as on Change.org (the hosting service I’d used to set up the petition) Signatures on the petition jumped to over 200. I was surprised at the level of interest, but happy the cause had snowballed. Apart from promoting it on my own Facebook and twitter, I’d pretty much left my marketing at that.

Yesterday I came home to a host of abusive tweets. I won’t dignify these people with posting what they said, except one, that I’ll use as an example here. I’d also been sent a host of threats of rape and murder over various social networks. I’ll admit I was a little surprised, and a little bit angry, but for somebody threatened with rape 7 times in the space of ten minutes, I was pretty fucking calm. You know why? It’s nothing.

After I spoke to the journalist who had written a piece about the petition in local press, I set about retweeting and then reporting the twitter abuse. One, by a twitter user called @MavisStott had tweeted to say that I was a ‘deadbeat northern Mong who was fewmin about some costumes and bullying the costume shop’ I was so confused over the spelling of fuming that I first wondered if I’d somehow wondered into some alpha/men’s rights bullshit…did they mean femwin? Oooooh fuming. I got it. I retweeted it and informed the user I would report any further contact. He/She then attempted to frighten me by insinuating that they’d doxxed me..I got another tweet that said ‘HELLO REBECCA’ followed by links to a higher profile media story I was in a few years ago. Again, if he/she’d looked at the petition they’d have got my name anyway. I didn’t engage and I reported, as I will be with any further contact in this manner. That’s not doxxing. That’s google.

A friend emailed me to tell me that the shop’s owner had put up a blog piece in response to the media and political attention. I read the piece. It had all the understanding of disability and discrimination that you’d have expected from a person at Ryanair. In the piece Mr Dawson accuses me of singling his business out for attack and causing his staff to be verbally abused, and that I was in fact a bully, rather than somebody who feels offended and upset by what he does. He also insinuated that people with mental illnesses who are affect by this issue are basically just a bit ‘sensitive’ I’m still waiting for an answer to whether or not he’s willing to furnish me with a ‘cerebral palsy’ or ‘spastic’ costume so I can make the most of his pledge to provide such a service

“All our costumes and accessories have been meticulously sourced to give our customers a broad range of products to suit any fancy dress theme, party or role play scenario. We are proud to offer customers the opportunity to dress up as whichever factual or fictional characters they desire”

Right, because that would actually be a hate crime and something he could be criminally charged with. And he knows itI would hope that if abusive calls were indeed made to his staff, he reported it to the relevant authorities (i.e the police) to be honest his blog post reads like he believed he could turn the tables by making himself and his business look like the victims while at the same time openly admitting to profiting from the pain of others.

It’s not about censorship or freedom of speech. It’s about corporate responsibility. And if somebody acts or dresses in a way that makes someone in a minority situation feel threatened for their welfare, it can be reported as a hate crime. I don’t expect a withdrawal of sale. I didn’t even ask for that. I asked that they stopped the stigmatisation by using the word psycho to stigmatise mental illness in such a way. Especially as it’s mostly generic horror. I don’t remember Chucky being an inpatient? Take the withdrawal of advertising revenue from Facebook by advertisers until they stopped having adverts next to rape pages. Facebook are not free speech. They are a company. So are joke. I’m not saying an orange jumpsuit should be banned, but that the stigmatising language should.

A couple of sad people behind keyboards who want to make me feel violated and intimidated are missing something vital. Because of what people like Mike Dawson do, the idea that it’s ok to attack people affected by mental health problems is perpetuated. It’s perpetuated when jokes that directly attack people with mental illness are broadcast on TV, when in fact if the same joke was applied to the physically disabled person, or somebody of sexual, racial or religious minority they wouldn’t be socially acceptable in most circles It’d be a hate crime in most circumstances. It’s not just a scrote on the street calling somebody a ‘mental bitch’ or calling me a ‘mong’ online, we live in a country where our own Prime Minister will refer to political opponents as “Fruitcakes and Loonies” Casual racism stopped being ok when language like this was picked up on as NOT OK. Sadly at the moment it feels like mental health will never be afforded that dignity.

So, my trolly detractors, you see, when you live with that, a little casual threatening or name slinging on twitter won’t upset me. You’d like to make me feel like shit, and scared, but I’m not. Not of you. However bad you want to make me feel, the way my condition and the way society as a whole responds to it makes me feel worse.

And yes, my name is Rebecca. I used my real name, because I don’t have to hide behind an account to be brave enough to say what I want to.

@MavisStott @phatbag and Mike Dawson thankyou so much for your comments.To trollers far and wide I’m not Northern and I don’t think you could get a boot up there.

Ooooh, and here’s the petition for anyone that fancies it…

https://www.change.org/p/www-joke-co-uk-stop-stigmatising-people-with-mental-illness-with-offensive-halloween-costumes

The Long Year

OK, the long ten months being more accurate. I haven’t blogged for a couple of months. I had some surfacing to do, some coming to terms with the last year and what it’s meant for me.

I started this blog almost exactly a year ago. I think maybe this is why I avoided updating. Every year on my birthday, I look back at the last year and beat myself up for not getting further, being better, getting well. It’s exactly the same thing. Reading last years posts makes for an uncomfortable realisation for me. I never want to go back to that time in my life, but with depression that’s the nature of the beast. No matter how well you get, eventually there will always be the relapse. I think even harder is that I’ve avoided it, because on the face of it, I haven’t achieved what I wanted to within the year. Last September’s blogging was angry and confused and agitated beyond anything I’ve suffered before. Cortisol pulsed through me, stiffening my hands and clouding my thinking. The sleep that never came made me hypervigilant and twitchy.

When I started this blog, I chose the theme because my life felt like I was grasping at the strings on balloons, desperately trying to keep control of my life and my head. They floated off anyway. The therapy and the psychiatrist I’d been seeing hadn’t been helpful. I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared since I heard my Mum was dying. It overtook the fear of being alone, the fear of becoming either of my parents. I lost reality to insomnia induced psychosis. If I’d had access to psychiatric care at the time I’d have been sectioned. Through all of my mental illness I’d always kept my control and my independence and I could feel that leaving too. I rang friends and begged them to let me stay for a few more days. I begged because I didn’t want to be alone through it. I really thought that my depression would kill me this time. I couldn’t see a way out of it.

All this considered, historically, I’d be beating myself up about the fact that I haven’t put in that art school application and I’m not all better. Yet.

I’ve decided it’s time to stop thinking of it in terms of a strict timeframe. I’ve finally come to realise that much as I hate the fact, a significant mental illness makes it hard to plan that way. The only thing I can really do about that is give myself the time to get well rather than set self-defeating impossible goals that I can bludgeon myself with when things go awry. DUH! Right?

The last couple of months have been bleak. I’ve had problems with the side effects caused by my medication, a fractured ankle with significant soft tissue injury and now a dodgy gallbladder and a dangerously low level of folate (again, caused by medication) and they’ve also been the harbinger of change. After applying to a women’s mental health charity I now have a regular psychotherapy slot, with a human psychotherapist. Her humanity makes me far more able to be as honest with myself as I need to be for the therapy to be useful. It’s hard. Really hard. I’m aware that especially in the first few months my symptoms will probably get worse.

As for my lack of creativity, I had another DUH moment there. I raised funds through this blog to make art. I purchased paint and canvas and did some courses, but still the creativity didn’t come back. Why? There was nothing in my life. Insomnia and physical symptoms really have left me isolated. I don’t think I realised how bad that had got. So I existed within my house. I didn’t go out. I didn’t see people. I obsessively read news, the tragedy and the horror made me curl into my depression further. It’s really no surprise to me looking at it like this. I have made nothing creative because there was no input. Just rumination and darkness. At some point this will come out within creativity, but that needs a counterpoint. Without contrast there is no creativity. Recently I was offered a place on a course for people with mental health problems. I now have access to regular art lessons for up to two years at an amazing community arts space for people like myself.  On a social and creative front, the thought petrified me, but it’s actually really helping. Blow me down, as soon as I take the pressure off myself the urge to create is trickling back. It’s not the flood that I wanted, but again, it’s part of learning that small steps are better than none. Or even sudden, violent change, because that isn’t all that helpful either. The week before last, I started work on preparatory sketches for a painting.
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With the help of my Support Worker I’m starting to piece my life back together. I know that when I start to take on a small amount (at present one psychotherapy session and one art lesson a week) I panic and want to do far more at once, because I feel like I should be. She’s helped me to realise that these steps are enough at the moment and that it’s important to allow myself this time to adjust. She reminds me that I need to build my future slowly. I didn’t become suddenly undone, I won’t suddenly get better.

I can’t pretend that’s not difficult, or that I haven’t cried my eyes out writing this. Psychotherapy this morning has left me a little wobbly and I’ve been putting off this post for a while. The reality of my situation still upsets me.

That was the long year. Here’s to the next one.

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Assesments: there’s no I in assesment but there is an ass (me)

So, you may or my not recollect a few months ago I went and asked a G.P at my surgery whether or not I was able to get accssss to a Community Psychiatruc Nurse. After makingme feel like the world’s moat feckless lump for even asking, and then my pyschatrist agreeing it’d be a good idea. I say agree, I found out that if you make it past primary care for a psych problem, you’re supposed to have a care plan. I never had a care plan. She realised that it had been overlooked, but said it would be difficult because her office was in a different sectore from my residence which would make it difficult because I’d asked to move. There’s me thinking I still lived in Leeds.

You may also remember that I had applied for psychotherapy via a women’s mental health charity, having been told by my psychatrist that I was unable to get the kind of long term therapy I’d need on the NHS anyway, and because I’d asked to move shrinks my chances were lets say fucked.

This week I had assesments for both of these services.

The women’ mental health charity was the first one. This, ubject to aprooval at assessment would mean at the end of a (mystery length) waiting list I’d be entitled to a course of psychotherapy. As well as going throuh the usual guff…filling in the how depressed have you been how many times this week form…going through the reasons I thought I needed therapy (that always makes me laugh in a weird dry way) my upbringing, current difficulties etc etc.. Then we talked about my last course of Psychotherapy and why I’d left it. I talked, explained how angry and confused talking myself round and round in circles was when there was no intervention. She asked if this therapy was on the NHS, she seemed surprised when I said yes. I said I was worried that I’d be letting myself in for more, because I didn’t believe it had helped me and then started to mutter about mysgymistic dead Germans. She said all the therapy available at the centre was therapy of one sort of psychotherapy or another, but none of it would be like that. The centre was so charmingly woman centred that in their toilets there’s a courtesy bowl of tampons and sanitary towels.

I came out of the meeting with an agreement to put me on the waiting list. There’s one off the list.

The next was my meeting with my Care Plan Coordinator and my Care Worker. Not sure why the differentiation or the need for two of them to see me. This was half helpful, half not, being as I’ve chased up a lot of the day courses already that they’d have tried to get me sign up for. There’s an additional art class I could go to, wouldn’t be allowed to take home what I was working on to work on at home. There’s a 3 worth months card for gym and leisure centre access, but that’s only if your GP is part of the scheme. I’m still trying to find out. As far as I can tell, I won’t see either of them that much, but there is a number I can ring if things get nasty.

The rest of this week has largely sucked.

I learnt two important life lessons

1) When using a new brand of eyebrow waxing strip for the first time and that strip looks a bit wide. IT IS.  Take note before pulling. Otherwise half the eyebrow comes off on the strip. Then you have to walk up to the brow bar at superdrug. THEN you have to have the brow technician or whatever it is they call themselves wince at you and say, I’ll have to take quite a bit off both to keep the shape right. THEN you’ll have to buy an eyebrow pencil and master that one. There’s the ass.

2) When using cash machines in future, I’ll be sticking to ones near CCTV, and preferably in a bank from now on. Card skimming bastards. I did not expect my only purchase this week to be a bowl of salad and an eyebrow pencil. Utter, utter, twunts, is all my broke ass has to say about that one.

My week toddled on slowly. I’ve been finishing up taking up a course of tablets they were considering replacing the Carbamazapine with. Carbamazapine has had some undesirable gastrointestinal effects, so they tried something else for a month. Which left me crashing around into walls after two drinks one evening. One morning, I hadn’t even had a drink and had to lie in my bed for an hour after getting up and trying to get to the bathroom and falling over far too many steps for a journey that brief. It zombied me good and proper. I visited friends recently and I don’t feel like I remembered much of the visit and that was scary. Back to Carbamazapine. Undesirable but better than the zombie pellet.

I’ve been slowly but surely working through a creative project I posted a snapshot of on here the other day. It’s actually finished, but you can’t see it until the recipient gets it. Hopefully once the zombie pellet is out of my system again those ideas will start to flow again. All I knew is two months ago I was getting my ideas back, and they’ve slowed again. Fingers crossed.

Up to last night I was starting to feel ok. I knew the Carbamazapine was working its way back in the Duloxetine. I had a plan for today and I woke up with the big black dog on my bed sitting on my chest growling at me. I crawled out from under it and I crawled downstairs after a couple of hours of wrestling with it. I’d had a plan of what to do today, but I knew it was out of the window as soon as I woke up to it’s growls. I crawled down to the sofa and cried and wished I could stop. I knew today’s plan was fucked. A friend texted me and asked if I wanted to come to town and said she’d shout me a coffee. The house suddenly started to feel like a prison. Maybe if I could get out today it would stop. I got to the bus stop and onto the bus before I realised I was nearly an hour early. Shrieked out of my cell but nothing to do. I hate bus crying. I hate town when it’s full of people. I hate sitting in a generic chain coffee shop crying at my friend about nothing. I did town for an hour or so and soon found myself craving the quiet. I can’t win sometimes can I.

On my way home I thought about a friend who’d once told me that her Guiena Pig had once run up against the cage wall over and over again and wondered if that would work on a person.

I hightailed it home with an explosion of apology texts and sat here like a numpty since. Mind you, I did finally get this post done.

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The Comfort of Strangers

I had a strange day yesterday. I nearly called this post ‘Strange Meeting’ because I likes me a literary reference.  However, with the D-Day remembrance having just passed and this entry not about D-Day or war, and the fact that you’d need to read it to know what I was on about, it became this. If you haven’t read it, please do, it’s amazing. It’s by Wilfred Owen. I even linked it for you.

Over the weekend, I managed to burn my arms with a hair-dye patch test. It’s not the first time I’ve had an allergic reaction to dye, but this one was missing a chemical thought to cause a reaction. Turns out it’s not just PPD that causes gigantic hives and epic, undulating blisters that run and run and don’t stop. It’s aromatic compounds in that group and it’s time to decide to carry on having turquoise hair or just go grey gracefully. I think a lot of this leads on from last week… the nose ring made me feel good- more like old me. So I wanted it back. That’s another post though.

Eventually, and somewhat obviously, the large patches of blistering on my arms from the patch test needed treatment. I went to the Drs yesterday to get antibiotics and have my arms dressed (I only put it on one arm, but the rash spread like a beast) As I sat in the waiting room with my dripping arms looking all grim, I did my take around the room. I like to people watch. There was a lady on the same bench as me. Late forties, rather stern looking, small silver crosses for earrings, tense looking, large bunch of hospital paperwork with her. I didn’t give her a second thought at the time. After I’d seen the doctor and the nurse had finished dressing my arms, I was leaving. She was just stepping out the door as I was, and I went to hold the door open. She thanked me as she stepped through it, but she didn’t look right. My GP practice is on a second floor, and we stood in the stairwell. I asked her if she was alright. She looked embarrassed and said she was feeling a bit tearful today. I asked her if she needed assistance getting down the stairs. She took my arm and the bannister and we walked. She told me that she felt stupid, that she was perfectly capable of walking, but felt so tearful. Before I even thought about it, I said

‘No need to apologise. I spent an entire bus journey back from Yeadon crying the other day. I can’t count the times I’ve left doctors and hospitals crying. There’s nothing to be sorry for.’

We slowly made our way down the stairs, with her holding my arm. When we got to the bottom, I asked if she needed to get to the chemist in the building or the car park. I walked her to the chemist and she sat down and waited for her prescription. Mine was ready to pick up. As I turned to leave, I didn’t just want to leave her there and not say anything. I sat next to her on the benches and said.

‘I don’t know what’s going on for you right now, but I’m guessing it’s not good. Never let go of being tearful, or being happy or anything else, because that’s what keeps you human, and it helps you through the dark times.’

She reached out and held my hand. Without thinking I asked her if she wanted a hug. Now, people that know me will know I’m not overly huggy when it comes to people I don’t know. I didn’t even know it was going to happen (me offering the hug). She nodded so I hugged her and she cried quietly. I just sat there and held her and was aware of the pharmacy lady giving the two very different looking frequent fliers an odd look, but didn’t really give a toss.

(note: I write this now picturing the pharmacy lady on the phone to my GPs upstairs- “Holy Shit Barb, we’ve got a live one, there’s a wonky here hugging a norm!” You’re kind of forced into a weird intimacy with your local pharmacist. Especially if you pick up tablets and have prescription changes as often as I have. They must pretty much know I’m a confirmed wonky)

I was emotional on the way home. It’s always stark to experience somebody in that kind of distress. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t hysterical. She was quiet and full of sorrow, but I think you know true pain when you see it. Maybe her cross earrings reminded me of Mum, maybe the pharmacist none to discreetly going through her prescription list with her gave me an idea of what was up. I know I was sad because I wanted whatever was hurting her to stop and knew I couldn’t.

It struck me I hadn’t told her it’d be ok.

When I got home I discussed the incident with a friend via Skype. This friend has a long term health condition too. We discussed the OK-ness of not saying it was going to be ok, and decided that that’s where you draw the line between comforting and irritating. For both of us, nothing is worse than hearing it’ll all be ok from someone. A lot of the time it won’t be. A lot of the time it’s hard. 100% of the time (there or there abouts) nobody really has the right to tell you it’ll be ok. They can tell you things will change over time, or be different for you, or you’ll feel differently, but never it’s ok. Trying to get it through to a ‘norm’ physical or mental when you have something chronic and life affecting, that it won’t just be ok is hard. Although they can comprehend that no matter how well you do in remission, how productive you are, how well you function, trying get anyone to truly understand that sooner or later, you’ll wake up so full of physical or psychological pain that it’s impossible to move, and the terror of living like that makes you want to punch people that say ‘It’ll be ok” Alright, not punch. Feel like a shitty friend for being quietly angry about it. Then massively guilty. Then not say anything because you’re being dreadful and they’re being lovely to you, because you’re ill and they’re trying to understand.

I’m back to typing at 5.54 am on no sleep today. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but it has only been about 24 hours I’ve been up, so I’m doing ok. I have my bi-monthly appointment with my psychiatrist today at 11.30. Hopefully after that some sleep. I’ll have been up about 36 by then, so I’ll get at least a few. Before anyone reading this even starts to think ‘oooh, well if you sleep during the day then of course you’ve got no sleep routine’ I can attest to the fact that last summer, I spent almost the entire time trying to stay awake during the day to maintain some fictional routine. I can tell you that for me it makes not a jot of difference, and three hours starting at around noon is better than none at all.

I’ll think of her today, on the way out of my appointment, as I (routinely) make a red eyed and hurried exist from the building and avoid crying if there’s people at the bus stop. Maybe that’s why I offered her the hug and I should stop over-analysing. Feeling like that sucks. Going to depressing and frightening appointments on your own isn’t fun. I honestly don’t know how I’d feel if somebody offered to hug post-psychiatrist me at a bus stop. I think people should be kinder to each other sometimes though. It doesn’t take much.

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P.S The comfort of Strangers is also a book. It’s a good one too. It’s by Ian McEwan

Little steps can take you far (yes folks, it’s happened, there’s a positive blog post)

I’m a little bit proud of myself today.

My depressions been kicking my ass recently. I’ve been lower than I can remember in a long time. My mood dropped considerably in February, when I realised that despite a new psychiatry referral, the help I needed wasn’t coming as quickly as I needed it.

It shames me to say that for the last few months I’ve been a recluse. It was a double edged sword. I was lonely, but I didn’t feel like I could leave the house. I existed, waiting for time to pass. To say my appearance declined would be somewhat of an understatement. I could barely look at myself in the mirror. The reason you always see me in a beanie on my rare outings? You can’t see what a mess my hair is. I avoided the mirror for so long that I was completely unaware that I’d developed a rash as a side effect of a medication I’d been taking a couple of months ago. I caught sight of myself on the way out of the shower one night. I realised it was the first time I’d looked at myself in months.

This last week has seen me make some difficult decisions. Ones I knew were for the best but still meant I caused hurt. It’s also been a week that I’ve achieved a lot.

Firstly I’d like to explain and show you what depression and insomnia can do to the way you look. I took this photograph back in November when I’d been awake nearly 3 days. It’s a weird kind of selfie I guess, but at some point I want to be able to paint my pain, and I wanted a record of how I looked. It’s also a pretty fair reflection of how I’ve looked since February when the last dip started. Now, would you want someone to see you look like this? If they use to know who you used to be?

I always said I'd try to be honest about my depression. It does this.

I always said I’d try to be honest about my depression. It does this,

Three years ago when I started having severe disturbances because of sleep, I was frightened of looking at my face because I thought I looked like a witch. I had these hives on my forehead and I was convinced I could try and squeeze the evil out and get back to normal. Bear in mind this is a week or so before I went to the GP and told her I was planning my suicide and got referred to a psychiatrist. As it turns out the delusional thinking was more to do with severe sleep deprivation and the maximum clinical dose of proazc I was taking.

More recently, I haven’t maintained myself because what’s the point? That’s what depression does. I had no reason, and was so full of self disgust that the idea of smearing my face with pastes and powders seemed laughable. It would never cover the rot. The weight I’ve put on, the self loathing. I never want to look in a mirror because I don’t want to look myself in the eye.

I’ve known for a long time that this needed to change. I’ve started to take back a bit of my old self. Yesterday, I went into town with my friend. She’s been great recently. Partly because she’s a sweetheart, but partly because she works with wonkies for a living. I’ve spoken to her about how I feel bad when I’m wonky around her because I don’t want our friendship to be work for her. She told me to stop being a dickhead. Nuff said.

So for the first time in months, I got out of the shower, and for the first time in an age used some face scrub. Then some moisturiser. I smiled to myself as I brushed my teeth because it felt like the beginning of the American Psycho film, because, in a way, I was going to have to bluff being normal until I got there yesterday. I didn’t want to do stabbing or bad things with rats. Don’t worry. I straightened my hair and put on a bit of makeup too. I don’t want to get into a huge feminist debate here. I just wanted to.

I went into town and had my new nose ring fitted. I immediately loved it. I met my friend, and we went for a muffin and a coffee, and then wandered around clothes and makeups shops being girly. After a little while, it felt comfortable. I couldn’t remember what it was for a while. I felt happy. She’s great this friend, as I said, she works with wonies, so she understood when some side effects started kicking in and I had to go home.

My other friend the body piercer hadn’t been able to take a clear photo of the ring at the shop, so I took another at home and put it on Facebook. This was my big step. I went out, wonky and all, I survived it and it reminded me what life is and how much I’m missing out on. I’ve avoided a lot of photographs recently because in my head I’ve gained much blubber and have several chins and baggy no sleep eyes. I took a deep breath and posted the picture and got a lovely response. So thank you to all of you. It seems like a little step to post a selfie. To me that helped to start to untangle months of self loathing.

For the first time in a long time, this is a real smile.

For the first time in a long time, this is a real smile.

This is me now. Wonky, but trying hard to get there. A little step yesterday meant a lot. I had a quiet day today. I’ve learnt that’s important, otherwise the adrenal drop can make you feel worse, and I wanted to hang on to this. Thankyou to everyone supporting me. You know who you are.
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Life, liberty and fruits of the gloom

I’m feeling a bit more like taking the power back.

This isn’t going to be the longest post today.I’m really not feeling super. I started on some new medication a few days ago, and my god, it’s making me feel rough. A kindly GP took pity on me and prescribed me some anti- nausea pills, which are wonderful but make me very, very sleepy. I’ve decided I’m giving these a month, and then reassessing what psychiatric medication is actually doing for me. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a lot.

When I got very upset a few months back that I had a queried diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, I was upset and angry. Partly because nobody had ever told me that was a consideration, and partly because when it’s diagnosed, it’s SUPPOSED to be after symptoms have been displayed for a long time away from depressing stimuli that could be causing the mood disturbances. As that note was written on her second meeting with me, I am now entitled t0 believe it’s absolute bullshit. Another GP explained to me it’s a bit like tendon damage…if they can’t box it neatly into something else, you end up with that on your file. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotionally Unstable Personailty Dirosder exist. I just think they’re massively over diagnosed because it’s convenient. One doctor described that being on my notes as ‘incredibly unhelpful’ I have a lot of the indicators, my background, my childhood, my life as it is now. If they’d have prodded a bit further however, they’d have come up with a different diagnosis entirely. Eventually, thank fuck, somebody did, because I had something to put a name to. Major Depressive Disorder… I was never bipolar like they thought… the insomnia left me agitated and twitchy. The high speed conversations and ideas? Most likely ADHD. I’ve been through an academic research screening  for it, but won’t be able to get a proper confirmation until I go through my ed psych assessment when I eventually (fingers crossed) go to art school and have my ed psych assesment. Psych services won’t (even though they screened me) because its a developmental problem not a psychiatric one

More maddening still was yesterday, when my psychiatrist told me I should have had a psychiatric intervention far earlier, because I wouldn’t be having the the problems I am now. I’m not a violent person, I’m really not, but I wanted to punch her. I wanted to scream and throw my chair across the room and ask her what she thought I’d been asking for for so long. I didn’t of course.

After a horrible day of soul searching and vomiting yesterday (don’t blame the sunshine or moonlight, it was the medication) I’ve decided that I need to push on with art, and I need to push on with exercise. They helped me cope before and when I couldn’t shake the blackness, sitting in front of my easel working detail after anal detail into what I was doing soothed me. Roller Derby is out for me, but swimming, once I’ve sourced a suit, and cycling, once I’ve sourced a bike, will help too. Not letting this beat me. A lot of this is self bossing bravado, but I’m doing this one way or another.

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