So, I was asked for an update on my, “fascinating” life. Which is not at all fascinating. For the past few months, my life has only existed internally. I have barely gotten dressed in the past four weeks, and have been- though trying on occasion not to be- at my quietest and most reclusive.
I am in turmoil about my life choices, and I feel at a crossroads but have no idea which way to turn.
This will be a serious and extremely naval-gazing entry. Better out than in, and it would probably be best to write it privately, but the desire for a human connection is partly fuelling this.
When my friend died when I was fifteen, I had dreams about her for years afterwards. She was a zombie, dying but not dead. There was a house opposite me in Belfast whose wall I used to kick balls against. A fence, and on this fence, standing, greening and broken looking, was Vicky. In my dreams she stared, and I ran frantically around the house, trying to wake my mother who was endlessly asleep on the sofa, begging her to help me, to save me from Vicky who became closer and closer every time I looked out the window, threatening to swallow me and place me up against that wall.
I have had similar dreams since my dad died in 2006, again, dying too young and in a way that felt morally illegal, that made no sense to me, like Vicky’s sixteen year old suicide. Only this time he lived in a small outhouse on the grounds of the garage near my home. He was, like Vicky, exiled from me but close, dying but not dead. His real-death was undone. He was living under the radar, hidden but there. And the same greening but talking, moving.
We went to visit him in the outhouse, in my dreams. We got food from the garage for him (where we got most of our food in real life, but in my dreams, I took to him, like convalescing, feeding him up, to get better and recover from immutable, eternal dying and death, as though he would come to us. I woke from those dreams afraid and intensely lonely). Sometimes I dreamt he was in his bedroom, watching TV, but the same rotting thing, but still, my father.
Recently, the dreams have returned, almost every night. Sometimes it’s my father, sometimes my friend Brendan, who died in 2007. It is never people who died naturally, nor those were old. It’s not my grandparents. I think when people die of old age and natural causes there is an acceptance of it. Old age can be as fruitful as youth, and I do not think that being old lessens your worth as a human being, nor the tragedy, inherent, in death. But peaceful ends to a life lived is less sad, to me. Less sad than sixteen and suicide, less sad than forty seven and liver failure and less sad than thirty two and accidental overdose.
Brendan is in my old bedroom, the last place I saw him. I have a lot of regret about him as at the time of his death I was more self obsessed than usual, and, in the wake of my dad’s recent death from alcoholism, unkind and unsupportive in many ways about Brendan’s drinking problems. I regret this more than I can explain. I feel the need to carry his flame and memory but am also aware that is unwanted by those closest to him (my role in this, not the carrying of memory). So I won’t go into the dreams, but there are similar to the ones I have about Vicky and my dad.
The effect of these dreams, or rather, the probably catalyst, is nightly panic attacks about death, dying and waste. It takes me a long time to sleep, and then I sleep in (I still take medication that makes me drowsy) because I am studying my husband’s still face and suddenly bile rises in my throat and terror propels me, screaming, to the other side of the room. His stillness is an affront to me. He is not still, should never be still. Will be still. Hopefully after me.
I think about not being here, not being anywhere, and curse the day I picked up Philip Larkin for articulating so well something I cannot, something I realised I did not want to.
My perverse reaction to this is to go and sit in the kitchen and smoke. Actively siphoning away my life. I know the nicotine is keeping me awake longer, but I still can’t go and lie down and be taken to a sleep where those are my dreams. I wake up every day and feel afraid and uncomfortable.
I am still in some senses depressed, and I am probably more fragile than I should be as I completely forgotten to take Lamictal over the holidays, having not made it part of my routine yet, and the addition of new strong chemicals into my body (and out again, then back in) is messing with my head. I had about two weeks peace and relative okayness and then this fragile self reappeared, and here I still am.
But I am not depressed in the sense I can’t conceive of a future. I can, too far, from here until death, and understand clearly why people commit suicide to wrench a control in their lives as I feel that way now. That is not a threat, it is how I feel.
Because of my state of mind I am mentally rewriting my own history. I wanted to write an entry here about 2012 and say that the kindnesses of people on our wedding day (and in the preparation) renewed my faith that people are good when Britain at the moment is saying people are bad. But my immediate and eternally self-obsessed reaction to that is instant rebuke. ”You haven’t appreciated kindnesses before, you didn’t even acknowledge them as kindnesses and you have been unkind yourself. You do not deserve those kindnesses”. It is silly.
Likewise, because of the horrible way our wedding day ended (a huge family fight, one I got drawn into, one I bitterly regret being drawn into), I can’t think of our wedding day. I forget the rest of the day- the loveliness of it- and am fixated instead on that event, which in many senses, is wholly natural. Everyone was pissed, it is a fraught and emotional event, it’s almost to be expected. But returning home to the mess and then it bleeding into our honeymoon- we both felt it was wrecked. Both acutely aware that THAT WAS IT, our wedding day, and that is what we remember. Angry at ourselves and everyone is, to the pint where we have no photos of our wedding day anywhere in our flat and we have argued over it many times.
The sensible thing to do is to write that off and remember the brilliance of the rest of the day. But again, here is my brain: But you didn’t spend enough time with Robert. You were so caught up in it you treated it basically like a good night out in the pub. We barely danced together. It did not go how you imagined, even you imagined it, to an extent, as though you were a different person, a person who does not smoke in their wedding dress and leaves early to a song and a wave and not in the last taxi, drunk, but elated. But I very much wanted to be that person on that day. THAT day. It is just one day, after all.
Again, it is silly. We said our vows, meant them, it was beautiful and we had an excellent time at the reception.
It is the THAT WAS IT-ness of it, combined with my negative state of mind, this fog I am struggling through, that I have before, because this happens to me, I get elated and silly and snap decisions, I get depressed and can’t even decide to leave the house or what to eat. They are my seasons.
The, THAT WAS IT-ness is this continuing creeping of the one-life thing, and it is ending, a second at a time. Instead of embracing that I want to run from it. Instead of hugging my husband and seeking out people, I am retreating. Instead of making decisions, I am dithering. These zombie dreams are amorphously jellyfishing into my day-to-day consciousness.
There is the large question of my course. I know it seems overly dramatic but doing this course (I am a mental health nurse) has shaken me to my core.
I have a very strong feeling of responsibility and affinity with people who have mental health problems. Not just because I have my own but because there is moral, ethical and social things surrounding it that matter to me, deeply.
It is, “my area”. And yet, the one-on-one, emotionally laborious job of mental health nursing is something I am not strong enough for, and nor it is my strength.
I (how many times will I say, “I” in this post?) am a serious and analytical person. I think carefully about everything I do. In my sound mind I am not in the least bit impulsive. This is another paralysing factor and one I am aware of being more paralysing than usual lately because I’m not in a great state of mind.
This feeling of responsibility is far too much for me. Because I know of the awesome responsibility and the impact I could have on peoples’ lives I am petrified of doing things wrong, of making a tiny misstep. I would be a good nurse (and have been a good student) but my analytical nature and the fact I am overembued with a sense of guilt and hold myself to high standards means that I think about every little thing and think about what I could have done better and worry about the consequences. For the past year and a half I have felt this way every day I have worked to the extent it affected my relationships, my sleep, my sanity. We are taught about ethics and ethics have been what have loomed large with me. And because I have been quite involved in activism I do find navigating this space between me as a person and me as a boundaried nurse painful.
I am an analytical and careful person who cares too much about the things I do, hyper-aware of my own feelings and empathic to others’: and this will never change; it is who I am and in other areas of my life it serves me well and is a virtue. In my relationships being aware of how I feel and how other people feel is what makes them harmonious and what resolves conflict when it arises.
When I come home, I want to be alone. I do not have the emotional energy to cope with someone elses’ feelings (like my husband’s) and this is not a good thing. I also have so much academic work to do that I also do not have the time.
I am also too internally-looking, too analytical and too into writing (and reading). The writing strength is not showing in this entry, I know, but is my strength. I want to use my strengths to help, listen to, write with, work with people who have mental health issues, their families, friends, through laws I care about, through injustices I see, using my strength, and not by dragging myself through something I am not strong enough to do. I AM more selfish than that, even if I am uncomfortable with it. I am probably too narcissistic, too.
There are the limitations I do not want to accept but need to. I simply cannot work shifts because sleeping is a vital component in my sanity, and one that recently has gone off kilter and it shows, one that did and I had to go off sick to sort myself out. In that time, I did some part-time hours to build a routine and that was my happy few weeks. I can manage things, anything, as long as the hours are remotely regular and I keep some sort of balance, which I find extremely difficult in what I am doing. And much advice has been given to me, but I appreciate it, but it is something I cannot state enough, along with the above. People keep saying just carry on and get your qualification, but I am quite sure (but again, how much of this is due to my state of mind?) that I will not get that far because of all the above.
So, I must stop, or interrupt. I haven’t gone into the past two classes because I cannot face doing so. And because I have this responsibility, or a delusion thereof, I feel as though I am being selfish, and I don’t like that.
It is extremely hard to let go. Particularly amongst this feeling of, “THIS IS IT, THIS IS YOUR LIFE”. I have worked my arse off. I did a course before this so I’d have the qualifications to do nursing and it in some way made up for the fact I dropped out of my A-levels due to illness (and oddly, I still have anxiety dreams that I miss the exams, particularly history, for some reason). I have invested so much time in it that it is difficult to walk away from.
There is also the fact that nursing becomes an identity. The nurses and student nurses I know proudly identify themselves as such and it is partly because it is such an all-consuming course and because you have to wear this identity with conviction when caring for people. It is also what you are recognised for as you work; beyond and before who are you outside. All your personality traits are linked back to your being a nurse. It really is more than a job and as a course it is far, far more than I was expecting and prepared for.
So stopping a course that I want to seems like a small thing to do, but to me it is massive. I am terrified I will regret leaving. I enjoy(ed) the identity too. We are all composed of different identities; who we are to friends, who we are to family, to our colleagues, to our lovers. My first identity is as a writer and someone who has a strong desire to connect and express, but the identity of a student nurse/future nurse surpassed the other identity; of someone who was sick, someone who was on benefits for a long time. An identity that, against my own principles and judgment, I found shaming.
It is also not wasted time. I know this. I have learned so much, and grown up a lot. But I am worried I will grow to resent it because of the impact it has on my health and life.
It is why I have been sitting staring at my CV for the past week, because that part of me is overwhelming to me. I need to get a job before I can do anything as I have absolutely no safety net whatsoever and we need money. And there is the rub number 76: my other responsibility is to my family. My family unit now, which is my husband and I, and my future hypothetical family, such as our children. I like to be independent, to earn my own money and to support myself and I also find joy in supporting others (another reason it is hard to walk away- I have a genuine love for the people I care for. Unconditional positive regard, as they call it). Having grown up poor and with parents who struggled to provide for us, I am afraid of doing that to another person. We turned out okay, but growing up was a grind. And I do want to have children and be in the position to, someday.
Our plan was that Robert would work part time and be a house-husband the rest of the time and I would be the person who works full time and supports us. I am far more, “career minded” than he is. He sees a job as a means to an end whereas I want to work in something that I enjoy and find meaning in. He does a lot in his spare time; I have not had spare time in almost 2 years with which to do anything in. Nursing to an extent gives me the opportunity to support us and it is another reason I find it hard to leave. I need to find something else that will give me that opportunity; to whit, a job.
My ideal plan is to work full time in a job I care about and return to university part time to study psychology. There are vague plans of clinical psychology in the future but it is mostly because I am interested in it and because working full time and studying part time suited me before and the thing I get a lot of happiness from is coming home having learned something.
So, this is mammoth entry updating you and something I felt like I needed to get out of my system. I would also really appreciate people not being personally abusive as I am being very hard on myself as it is right now. I guess this is just needing to be heard as I feel sometimes I am going mad here as I say I feel one way but am being told I do not feel that way. Because I am being so indecisive, I guess it is easy for someone to say that.
In brief, I wish I could be more in the moment. Wish I could just enjoy things, not worry, but I do. I do because I am aware I am at a time when the decisions I make are going to affect the rest of my life.
Anyway, phew, there you go, a big post. Hope everyone is well.
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder