Repost from last year. Nothing has really changed, except he’s been gone for 7 years now.
Stephen Fry (who I hope is feeling better now) has opened up in a podcast with Richard Herring and spoken of a suicide attempt he made last year. I won’t link to the text as it’s a rather hardcore description and, as much as I could be, I felt triggered by it as I had a similar physical reaction (convulsions and a seizure) during my own suicide attempt and I get flashbacks which aren’t nice. Here’s the podcast, though.
I have the utmost respect for him for speaking out on this. I have sometimes, as many others have, attributed the oft-glamourisation of manic depression to Stephen Fry. But none of that was ever his fault. Our mental health is ours, so intensely personal yet so common, that when someone talks, publicly, about their experiences, we feel aggrieved that they are not exactly describing our own. We bear different pasts but the same diagnosis. If we are struggling, unwell, lost, I think there’s a sense of feeling cheated that someone else isn’t. Especially with celebrities who may speak out but not have to suffer through the NHS, money problems, social services and all the insidious intrusions you have to live with when you have a mental illness. But pain is pain. It may be dimmed by money or fame, and it may not.
The recovery narrative of mental health can forget that people die because of their mental health problems. Not solely, of course. Sometimes it’s everything else that can kill; the mangle of the benefits system, the guilt and shame of knowing you’re being judged when you’re buying groceries, the isolation from those who no longer know what to say to you, whom you might have hurt, or whom may have hurt you. And this is getting worse and worse, with the benefits system crueller than ever, seemingly trying to make people kill themselves, the stigma becoming more and more, and harder and harder to live with. And not much is being done to help. All that can kill you, too.
All that, or nothing. Stephen Fry said,
“‘Fortunately the producer – I was filming at the time – came into the hotel room and I was found in an unconscious state and taken back and looked after. ‘You may say, “How can anybody who’s got it all be so stupid as to want to end it all?”
“That’s the point, there is no “why?” That’s not the right question. There is no reason. If there was reason for it, you could reason someone out of it.”
This, for me, is the most uniquely horrible thing about living with a mental health problem. Sometimes, there is no reason. Last year, just after my wedding, I started to become depressed. The depression continued, strangling me, slowing every movement down to indecision whether I woke up or not, got dressed or not, moved or not, stayed or went or lived or died and I couldn’t decide. I locked myself in bathrooms, I was mute or repetitive, going over and over on the same tiny details to avoid the huge one in front of me. That there is no reason to live, and I wanted to die. The closest I came was one night in November where I stood at the side of road then just walked out in front of a car, which stopped, the driver swearing at me. I fantasised, selfishly, about an, “accident”, so I could leave and not be blamed, no notes, no reasons. I would be tragic and frozen and immortal as a bride and not as the mess I was. I was a newlywed and I felt I was standing outside my own body screaming, “THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS. CHEER UP, CHEER UP, STOP” and it made me feel lower and lower and lower. My husband wasn’t supportive as it looked like the wedding had caused my depression. It hadn’t. The sense that I had let him down, let everyone down, killed me.
I become depressed, like clockwork, at the same time every year. All my forays with hospitals, suicide attempts or the crisis team have been almost at the same date. It’s so predictable and yet, every single time, I forget. I think something will save me; a wedding, love, anything. It doesn’t- it never will. And it will come again and I find it terrifying. It is what in periods like this, where I am otherwise mentally fine but having panic attacks, makes me want to step into the road again. To take control. To end the cycle, once and for all. It is so frightening to see your life mapped out like that. To be happy and to know that you might be returned to that horrible place, and you might not return from it.
And because there is no reason, it is hard to get help. It took me a few months to actually admit to myself that I was so depressed I was dangerous. I blog, and talk, and tweet, but getting me to actually visit a doctor and say, “I WANT TO KILL MYSELF” is hard. Somehow, those words take on a terrible, solid form in that room. It becomes real and vivid and the doctor has to argue with the person inside of you that wants to kill the host.
This isn’t to be self-pitying. It’s a plain fact. For whatever reason, whether it’s biological, psychological, social or all, people with mood disorders will have mood swings and they almost always will happen again and again. Some people rumble on for years and are fine, some people, like me, have a seasonal pattern to their moods and tend to become unwell around the same time every year. I do much better than I ever did, as I used to have good old fashioned rapid cycling and became unwell quite regularly. Now, my high moods are pretty much under control as long as I take medication and sleep enough, but I still get depressed. I don’t expect to- like I said, I forget I do- but there is it. HOORAY! I feel I am as lucky as I can be in my life, in many ways, and that makes it more frustrated.
Recovery from mental illness is real. People live with it, every day, and although 10-20% may die from suicide, the rest are out there, like you and me, still living their often difficult, sometimes wonderful lives.
I think that, me included, we all thought that when you let the genie out of the bottle, it lost its hideous power. But we were wrong.
A wee plug for this! Firstly because I’m one of the writers (hello! 26th of June should you want to hear my blather) and secondly because I think it’s quite a unique course. For lovers of Irish literature, here’s a treat for you!
18th Irish Writers in London Summer School
13 June – 19 July 2013
First established in 1996, the summer school runs for two nights a week for five weeks and provides an informal but informative setting for students wishing to study Irish literature over the summer. Each week a set text is discussed in class on Tuesday evening and the following Thursday, the author reads and/or speaks about it to students.
So, not posting the thing my husband wrote as he isn’t comfortable. It was about looking after your own mental health and his experiences with his own mental health. In a nutshell! Just pretend you read it. WordPress psychosis.
With that not being posted, HOORAY! It’s summer, sort of! HURROO, is anyone else’s sleep completely messed up? I’m knocking out a good 3 hours a night, even with medication, and it’s starting to get to me. The medication dulls me still so I’m not hyper, just twitchy and shattered and with a face increasingly representing a pug’s.
I need to go to bed right now, but I also need to eat something as I haven’t since 3pm. I am too tired to cook, and too tired to move off this sofa, so I may have to eat the sofa. (Insert fibre in your diet AAAAAH joke here).
I don’t think the mood disordered are alone in finding that their sleep deserts them when the seasons change. But it is a pain in the hole.
This is a bit of a pointless update. I AM FLIPPING KNACKERED!
I have something from my husband to post but it needs editing so not yet.
He died in 2006 from alcoholic liver failure at the age of 47. I have numerous friends older than my dad at his death. I spent the day in bitter reminiscence at the disgusting way he and my family were treated as he was dying because he was an alcoholic. I have no experience but I’m willing to bet the families of cancer patients aren’t asked why they didn’t stop them and pushed roughly aside by staff and treated with the utmost disgust and disdain. Willing to bet their dying dads with heartbroken children weren’t treated as though their dying was their fault. My dad’s death was the most painful event of my life and they made it worse. My big sister Paula was there for most of it and she has far more tales to tell. I am bitter and I always will be. Even more embittered at “mental health activists” who rant against stigma yet treat people with addictions like scum unworthy of help. Attitudes like yours helped isolate my family and contributed to my dad’s death. Cheers. There is no hierarchy of suffering and help. If you want people with schizophrenia to be treated humanely and to have access to services, same should apply for addictions and personality disorders, considering how everything is linked. No exceptions. People who overdose can get new livers. My dad couldn’t (but George Best could) and endured being told that and knowing with certainty he would die.
Robert looked after me but have felt fragile all weekend. My dad’s anniversary is always a time for reflection. The past year has been so hard. I wish he had been here. I had a drink in his honour. Even more in his honour, I stopped at that one.
So that’s me, proper blog soon.
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!” and, “Hooray!” 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. 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. Hooray and tough luck!
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.
Allie disappeared after Depression part 1. 19 months later, she’s thankfully reappeared with this.
It’s the most accurate thing I’ve ever read / seen about depression. I want to print it out and hand it to those close to me, for the times when I don’t have words.
And it’s funny. Go read! http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/depression-part-two.html?m=1