…I didn’t actually publish the, “Now I Am Six” blog post from earlier- I have no idea why it did publish. It’s from May 13th….EXACTLY 6 months ago…
Totally freaked out! Wah! Ghost blog!
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
I missed my blog’s sixth birthday! Sorry, m’blog! It was in February. SIX YEARS! That’s an elder statesman blog. No wonder I can’t keep up with all you young hoodlums and your fancy domain names and your twitters and cookbooks. You’re all out there using hashtags and I’m pushing a hoop down the street with a stick thinking it’s my cat.
Six years of blogging here. I think this blog was one of the first mental health blogs in the UK. It was started when blogging was really beginning to take off as a platform outside the realms of places like Livejournal and Xanga. I didn’t even really intend for this blog to be widely read; I never advertised it anywhere and only linked to it on my own Livejournal. So I’m surprised now, 6 years later, it’s amassed over 1 million hits! And had a radio play based upon it, which I still find so very weird! Weird! But lovely. Many odd, interesting, “Oh!” things have happened as a result of this blog, and I’ve met many odd, interesting people as a result of it.
Mental health blogging has taken off since then. There are many more blogs now, and many more blogs out there that are better than mine. It’s fantastic to see a whole generation of people with mental health issues speaking out- honestly, openly and, to be honest, rather fascinatingly. They’re windows into the rooms of places whose doors are locked. You don’t have to a great writer to start a blog. You don’t even have to be a good one. It doesn’t have to be for anyone but yourself if you don’t want it to be. But I have found immense value in writing here. I’ve tried to pull away, many times, but this is my blogging home. It feels comfy. And, despite some arsehole trolls over the years, it feels safe. It’s one of the reasons I’ve kept it almost exclusively about mental health, as it’s my safe place to talk about it. It isn’t this clanging anchor I drop into conversations here; it’s the purpose. It’s full of scattercushions and dogmarked photographs, of scrappy recollections and half-forgottens-then-found. I love seeing familiar names pop up in the comments, and new names, too. I like that I might have had a hand in popularising, “mentally interesting” and, “mentalist”, as they’re both delightful words. The latter in particular has been reclaimed by the blogging world.
If you’re looking for my first posts, you won’t find them, as I made about 500 posts here private when I was looking for work. And really, would you want everybody to read what you wrote on the internet when you were 21? But I will return them to their published form. Although I’m a wee bit scundered (Norn Irish for embarrassed and the name of my never-to-be-published autobiography) by some of it, I’m not ashamed of any of it.
I was a baby when I started this blog. 21 years old with the life experience of a fifty year old but with the emotional maturity of a 15 year old. I had just weathered the duel storms of my father’s death and the hospitalisation that led to my diagnosis and the seven year long (so far) wrestling with treatment and the mental health system. The tagline of this blog used to be, “Navigating the labyrinth of NHS mental health services”, which I found my way out of in 2011. I, like a lot of people my age, have grown up online. I’ve kept journals since I was 12, and for me, the internet is partly an extension of that need to record. The difference is, for atheist me, these public records, like here, Facebook and Twitter, have become almost a substitute for the religious desire to know that, “somebody’s watching over me”. I kept my teenage diaries in fitful loneliness, longing to share my thoughts with something else other than paper. Which probably accounts for why I have the tendency to overshare a little! But I love being able to find a date and look back. My memory is legendarily awful and here is my six years of dropping stones to see which path I took, and how.
A lot has changed. I’m 27 now, but I feel as though I’ve aged another decade to that. Within the past four years particularly I have changed a lot. My life is fairly unrecognisable to how it was; I am still the same person I’ve always been (as evidenced by my dress sense failing to evolve from the one of my 14 year old self), but a quieter one. I sometimes miss the whirling dervish I was, but it’s still there. Emotionally, I’m a grown up now. I used to fear that mortally, but now I have no nostalgia for my past self in that sense.
I’m married, to someone I absolutely did not expect to be, I am, for the most part, ten times healthier than I was when I started this blog (and ten times fatter, alas!) I’m still messy and mental, but I prefer the person I am now to the person I was then. I always feared growing older, but didn’t anticipate the hugging hum of peace and confidence that comes with it. When I look back, there are so many times I was on the precipice of disaster, and I am thankful I never took that step and let life unfold. When I look back, there is more happiness than I imagined I would have.
Life hasn’t turned out as I expected it to, and there have been a few opportunities I have let slip through my fingers. I need to write more and work harder at that, and to do more with my life in general. I enjoy the standing still sometimes, though, the intake of breath before the drop.
So, a lot has changed! But I’m still here! I couldn’t have said, with any confidence, that I still would be 6 years later. Haha, tough luck, everyone!
And a massive, huge thank you to everybody who has stuck by me all this time. You’re all so very soft and sexy. I hope that some who have come here in grief have found peace, and those who have come for help have found it. Much love, and if I’m still blogging here in six years, please, pull me off the internet, drive me to the countryside and abandon me in the woods to frolic with cartoon deers.
(not satire - it's ConDemNation today)
Back in 2011, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs joined together to reject an amendment which would have exempted terminally ill cancer patients from benefit cuts.
They decided that if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer - but have been given more than 6 months to live - you will have to work or starve.
A quick and cheeky post. I am running the BUPA 10k in May 2014. I am legendarily unfit and have never even run for a bus, but I want to raise money for the addictions charity Addaction, in memory of my dad, Paul Molloy, who died from alcoholic liver failure on May 17th, 2006.
It’s going to be a HUGE challenge for me so I’d appreciate anything you could donate. You can sponsor me here:
Please share if you can and thank you!
My dad had a camera attached to him for the first 10 years of our lives. He documented every mundane moment. He painstakingly developed them, and kept almost every photo he took. They live in a box in my mum’s house and have been vanishing over the multiples moves she’s undertaken since he died. I have a few of them. The photos begin to tail off when my baby sister was a toddler. My dad was too lost to drink then to keep taking photos. I hate that there’s scant evidence of her childhood.
There was a photo of me that he loved so much he had it blown up into A4 in dramatic black and white. I’m about four, face on, staring fiercely into the lens. I don’t know if I’d just woken up and was grumpy, I don’t remember the photo being taken. But he loved that photo and was proud of it, and proud of the person in it. It was one he showed me often. Even I could shyly admit I looked beautiful in it, looked, probably for one of the first times, like a child who was becoming their own person.
I tore it up one day, in a fit of teenage pique, when I was learning how to hate myself. He was hurt. And I regretted it instantly, and I still regret it, to this day.
My dad hurt us a lot with his drinking. But sometimes I’m floored at all the little things I did to hurt him, too. I remember, always remember, how his eyes looked when he was hurt. When he was drunk, dewy. Sometimes, they were dewy when he was happy, too. I remember that less.
I miss my dad. When you think of what a life is- that there is one- it brings me to my knees that his life was so brief and so desperately unhappy. Despite us, five children. Sometimes, I think, was it because of us? Other deaths and lives don’t have that burden on their children. People who die of natural causes and not things like alcoholism can have that gift, of a, “life well lived”. To know how cherished and loved they were, and how much they cherished and loved in return. I don’t have that. Either way, I don’t have that and I regret it utterly. My dad was often infuriating, abusive and hurtful and in rages, I would be the same. Always his reflection, even now.
I didn’t even mention him in my wedding speech. I regret that, too. It wasn’t a conscious omission. I wore his photo in a locket around my neck. I worried that if I talked about him, I would never stop. I didn’t want to cry, not that day, but cried later anyway, for different reasons. I wish I had let myself cry for those ones. Why, why have I spent the seven years since his death trying not to cry? I only cry over my dad when I’m drunk. Why did I spend the years of his life trying not to? It is so hard to watch someone you love destroy themselves. Despite pleading with them, begging them, screaming at them. Doors torn off the hinges and kicked through in premature grief, from all of us. Like I tore up my photo, he tore up the letter I wrote him when he was in a psychiatric hospital. We were asked to tell him what effect his alcoholism was having on us. And for a while, it seemed like we’d gotten somewhere. But they all went to pieces, in spite and because of. Even now I wonder if I had chosen my words too carefully. From the back of a CD, some pretentious teenage book I was reading. Using it as a writing assignment to hide from the reality of what was happening to him and to us. Of that squalid little hellhole hospital and its yellowing rooms, and his rancid bedsheets and yellowing skin. Too blamefully, too artfully, instead of writing it from me.
The photos help. We were happy, sometimes. He was happy, sometimes. When he stopped picking up his camera, that’s when I started. He left us some money- not a lot at all- when he died. I bought a camera with mine, his last gift to me.
He wasn’t a great dad. But he was our dad.
He was someone who didn’t realise how much he was loved. And if he didn’t realise, then who else doesn’t?
I just found this: I wrote it in June 2011. It came to my mind because I keep forgetting that as a person I will have mood swings, and as a person with dodgy moods, even more so. AS A PERSON. Forgot that bit for so long. No new episodes have happened yet. (And, as of reviewing 2013, I have had one more severe episode of depression and a few small hypomanic ones. Now also have panic disorder).
And I fear being mad again, when newlife, largely lonely, is hurtling towards me. Career, kids, marriage (I want them all, I could have them all). Don’t be mad, not again. Even the sniff makes me fear, I blink at the glare, deny everything. From open, to closed.
So now I am recovered from mental illness. Now I can pass for normal to the untrained eye, one that isn’t looking too closely into my own glazed, unfocused ones. I do Recovered Person Things; I study, I work, I take public transport and people sit next to me, on a good day.
Whoever was doing the PR for tampons was doing them for mental illness
recovery. The same euphoric aerial splits celebrating the joy of
working Coke machine, the same toothy grin over a latte with your
girlfriends, the giant kitchen, with holy glittering worktops awaiting
a weekend of salad preparation for the family- all this will be yours,
if you get better. A life, they call it. A normal life.
And deep down a part of me sighs, “Don’t believe the hype”. Recovery can be a more profoundly lonely experience than the illness itself. Years have passed now, like a dream. But if it were a dream, then nobody else would remember. But they do, and better than I. Vignettes of a life I had forgotten before I even finished living it are bold A4s in other peoples’ brains. How jealous I am of my memories being locked in other peoples’ brains! And afraid I am to ask for the key. A part of me does not want to remember.
I had expected that after four years, I would one day fling open the door and see a line, stretching far down the street, snaking around the corner and into the road, the people who I had hurt, bored, confused, frightened and bored again waiting, wreathed in smiles, bedecked in flowers, overflowing with forgiveness, welcoming me back.
Back to… where? Somewhere I have never been, as someone I have never been. In the four years of the regrettably necessary self-obsession required to Recover, I had stopped asking about the lives of my friends, the lives of my family, the lives of people I had loved, or could have loved and who could have loved me. In time, they stopped asking me, too. They had Real Lives. They have promotions at work, fall outs, nights out. I had the stasis of the still-sickening, of an inner-life with no outer life. My most exciting trips were to hospitals, or onto the pavement. If it is dull to me (and it is), it is even more dull to them. And rightly so.
You find this too, when you recover. This is not cancer, not even close. You can’t whip your sleeves up and show your self harm scars as a mark of how far you come. That’s bullshit-speak from social workers trying to salve the pain of you destroying perfectly lovely parts of your body for the rest of your life. No-one is interested in your inspirational tale. In fact to mention it you’d think the earth’s axis has shifted ever so slightly one centimetre as people have the irresistible urge to be drawn backwards. Really far back. I’ve made that mistake before. I thought that now I was stable (but not normal, never normal and untainted) everybody would be happy for me. Bumping into an old school friend, the conversation goes like this,
“Oh, hi, Seaneen! What have you been up to?”
“Oh, hello! Well, I’ve been mad for a couple of years! But I’m fine now! Just off to get a sandwich. What about you?”
With no outer life, or at least, with a less of a socially conventional outer life if your mental illness knocked you into a ditch somewhere, you may have lost social skills. How do you talk to people when you’re not a little high? (Slowly, by the way). How do you have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around what your
psychiatrist said that week? (Bullshit, as usual). It’s okay- practice on strangers. Which you’ll be doing a lot since, as mentioned above, you have lost most of your friends in the period in which you were mad and trying to be less mad.
If you were lucky, you might have made some nice mad friends to keep you company. They’ll be really happy for you when you recover and
start to claw your way back to normality. Which is how it should be. Except, some of them think you’re a traitor. Some of them are genuinely pleased for you, but then you find that aside from talking about your mental problems, you don’t really have that much in common anymore.
Where do you go then? Into a new life, with new people. And what do you tell them? What of the past years? What did you do, where did you come from? What did you do? Where did you come from? The answers make you dumb.
This day seven years ago, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and thus began my love-hate relationship with the mental health system. I remember- noise, pacing, star jumps, skipping brain, Silence of the Lambs on repeat, Leila, stripey socks, more pacing, telling the nurses I had to be let out because I had an important interview at Scotland Yard (and this was true!), haloperidol, flowers, Connect 4, Lithium, bloods, tight hand grips, tourniquets and smoking.
Almost 5 years ago (in 2 more days), I took an overdose after a year of depression and one very ill-advised prescription of Effexor. I am still alive.
The memories I have of that night are sickened- sweat, vomiting, screaming for my dead dad, having a seizure and knocking myself out on the desk, the paramedics seeing my breasts and still feeling aware enough to be mortified about that, everyone here worrying since I posted while off my skull, feeling angry that the doctor dismissed my overdose as, “over a fight with a boyfriend”, when no such fight had taken place, when I hadn’t even inferred it, he was at the pub, but as a young woman in a scar suit, it must have been why, not the year’s worth of depression, not the hyperactive energy burst of medication, as a young woman, my life revolves around the men in it.
Wanting a toffee crisp and the kindness of friends. More vomiting. Friends cleaning the flat so we didn’t have to return to it. Rob’s centring calmness when I knew how afraid he was. Me pretending I was alright afterwards, when I really wasn’t, but I felt so silly and ashamed of myself.
Nothing has been simple since. It’s easy to forget how bad things were, I guess. My life revolved- and still does, to a large extent- around trying to stay sane. I feel more sane than I ever have, PDSQ questionaires to fill in tonight aside. (What is an, “upsetting experience”? I wrote down 3, then added in the margins, “Not sure these count”).
I’ve hidden a great deal of posts from when I started this blog, cowed and blushing over my quite dogmatic nature then. I was only 21. I should reinstate them, even if they’re embarrassing. I’ve seen other people do the same as me- when diagnosed with someone, deny to begin with, then grab at it like a rope to a drowning man. It took me a couple of years to realise I was more than my illness. And a couple more to realise it would always be there, humming in the background like a twatty passenger on a bus. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought and I’m not afraid anymore.
October is my bad month. I have crashed almost every year for 10. I’m still here. Fuck you October. In your face.