My Blog is 10 Years Old! Hooray!

Happy 10th birthday to this blog! If it were a person, it’d be in its last year of primary school. Bloody hell. 

When I wrote my first entry, I was newly dispatched from a psychiatric hospital, newly having just-lost-my-dad, and trying to find my way in the world through a fugue of medications and grief. Although I started this blog to write out feelings I felt were burdening people around me, to get closer to what I was experiencing, really this blog was a way to put distance between me and what was happening to me. To storify it, to fling its tendrils into others and drag them close to me, to share in it. Because I felt alone and for however wise and clever I tried to sound, I didn’t have a fucking clue.

And I had this phone: 


A fair amount has changed. I’d have hoped 10 years on I’d be shiny haired in my giant kitchen and recovered, but I’m not. (The Recovery Myth innit)  I’ve been off work for the past month with another to go as I continue to be ill (largely strangulating anxiety, never really recovered from being ill at the end of last year) but I’m coping. 

Long ago- long long long ago- I surrendered the identity of, “manic depressive” and started to deal with the messy foreverness of just mentally interesting, maybe slightly fucked in the head, maybe also struggling to deal with things that had happened to me, maybe with a dash of madness that a capitalistic world instills in people like you and me (and the late, great Mark Fisher, who ended his life last month, wrote about it beautifully here) in living each day.

But at the beginning, and the middle, I needed that identity. It was a necessary part of getting to the point in my life where I could view the many limbed beast as something that floated alongside me, sometimes vapourously inside me, that didn’t define me, that didn’t own me. To submerge completely, to view my life through that one lens for a while was what I needed. I did, for a long time, need those medications, need that deadening sleep, need that anaesthesia and blue chaired routine of confession and penance. It was painful and exhausting and stumbling and sometimes humiliating and destructive but it did, eventually, get me into a quieter place, a quieter mind of being able to begin to untangle the what it is and what I am, and to be more gentle with myself and those around me who often suffered alongside me in each episode and in its self obsession.

That’s the biggest change, really. That I am a person with, or who experiences x, y, z and not just that. You can’t escape that- the that is why I was under the perinatal team in pregnancy, the that is why it takes me so long to ask for help when I need it, the that is why I feel shame, despite  everything, the that is the that that lurks in the background whispering it can kill you, anytime, no matter what, when you least expect it. But I’m still here.

I’m still short, still fat. I’ve got a child, whom I adore, and reading back those early entries were such anxiety about ever having children, and I’m so glad I did. I don’t write as much as I’d like to, I work now when I wasn’t sure I ever would, I don’t take medication anymore but don’t rule it out, and I still can’t read a novel to save my life. I made it a rule not to discuss my relationships in detail in this blog, but I’m married and happily so, boringly happily so. I’ve always been quite lucky in that respect. I’ve got friends and quite a few of them I made through here. I also pretty much got my job because of this blog. 

The world has changed in 10 years for the worse. Back when I started this blog I was on benefits and didn’t fear too much the brown envelope, which is unthinkable now. I don’t write so much about that either as I never feel I can do justice to it, someone always says it better. I feel like what I say about that here would be facile, so I’ll save it for another post.

Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me for the past DECADE. (I am old). For the people who were there at the start and carried me through the worst years. And who are here now listening to my bollocks on WhatsApp. For historians, this is the first public entry, 10 years ago. I made most of my earliest blog posts private due to the toe-curling embarrassment of writing while under the influence of being 21 years old.  Most of my early posts here made me utterly cringe in their melodrama- but now, with my greying temples and the tantrumy toddlerdom I live with- I’m far more sympathetic to the barely out of teenagehood of it all. There’s a sweet romance in the melodrama of that age, whether you’re just out of a psychiatric hospital or just out of school, or both.  

So if you’re a teenager and reading this, and you’re Instagramming, tweeting, blogging or Snapchatting mental health, keep doing it.  When I started writing here, there weren’t many mental health blogs around and there wasn’t much of a community. Now there is, it’s flourishing, people are sharing their stories, finding each other. Keep finding each other.  Don’t worry about how you sound or look or if you’ve written something lovely. It’s not about that. Challenge the narrative, don’t let anyone speak for you. I wish you’d all been around when I was a mental self harming teenager who had no idea what was happening to me and no way to explain it. You’re doing good things. Keep doing it.
Not sure there’ll be 10 more years- it gets harder to write here the more of a, “normal” life I need to lead. Despite 10 years, I still feel worried or self conscious about what people must be thinking when they read this. But maybe if I can make more time, more space, I can write more and care less. That’s what I’d like. Either way- thanks for sticking with me. You’re a great bunch of lads.  I hope my bollocks has helped!

For historians and statisticians:

Total views: 1,512,968 (one and a half million, what the feck)

Busiest day: 8th May 2009 (when the Radio 4 play based on this blog was broadcast- read this post)

My favourite post: Musings on Mumhood- Feminism, Love and Grief 

Followers on WordPress: 4,790

Followers via email: 167

Social followers: 6947

Weirdest search term of the day: slapping your sister in d dream correcting her and u were very angry with her

Weirdest search term in 2017: would i like to eat my own poo (why does this lead here? Now it does again- NO, YOU WOULD PROBABLY NOT LIKE IT)

Goodbye Carrie Fisher, drowned in moonlight,  strangled by her own bra. 

​I generally dislike the snowflake especial, self aggrandisement of bipolar disorder, where it’s treated like some sort of wonderful gift or quirky personality trait. 

It’s usually a thing that men do because famous men have so very much less to lose by being open about mental illness and bipolar disorder gets them their, “Tortured genius” badge, whereas it gives woman their “Tragic Slut” or “Psycho Bitch” one.

Carrie Fisher owned being a mad woman,  being mad in a way only men are allowed to be (not quietly, and with a massive side order of coke and booze), and at a time when women shouldn’t be, and being totally fucking unashamed of it, as well as hilarious, human and seemingly bereft of self pity. If women are to be forgiven for their transgressions (mostly imagined),  it is only by wilting quietly and apologetically.   She didn’t. She bloomed and had her bollocks out and wrote so, so beautifully about ugly, funny, wonderful, painful things. 

She was a hero to me and many, the kind of princess I wanted to be.  There’s a lot more I can and will say another time but for now- goodbye,  Carrie Fisher. 

Sorry for the silence… 

… I’ve not been very well over the past few months,  unsurprising given its autumn and I’m always ravaged by depression at this time of year. I don’t really know why I ever hope it’ll be different.  In the last few years I’ve had round the clock anxiety too which has been lots of fun. I haven’t been at my worst thankfully, I’ve had worse than this, but it’s been bad enough that I got signed off work for a little bit,  only a week.  My doctor wanted me to take longer off,  but am trying to keep myself going as much as possible as I don’t want to end up back on medication, which was what the doctor suggested if I continued to get worse.  Because I can’t take antidepressants on their own I’d have to take a mood stabiliser and antipsychotic again too, and it was hell getting off them and I struggled to function working full time with a long commute and it would be doubly hard now with a baby to care for too. 

It took me a long time to ask for help because I was terrified if I did,  they’d take my son from me. That’s my worst nightmare and I was angry at myself for not being magically cured now I have him, for feeling weak and shit. He always makes me happy, was the only thing that did really. But I’ve been feeling like some sort of toy, plugged in and can smile and talk then becoming unplugged into slackness and silence.

So I’m trying my best. I do feel a bit better.  I need to take a bit of a look at my life though and think about what I can reasonably cope with. It is so hard in London just trying not to go under.   

The state of the world generally has been getting me down too and I haven’t felt like writing.  What is there to say anymore that hasn’t been said already? The world is a terrifying shitshow full of unimaginable suffering which is going to become worse and worse.  There’s my hot take.

I’ll be back though, just wanted to say hi and explain why I’ve been quite quiet over the last few months. 

Oisín is still lovely, though. Here he is on Halloween (he was a punk zombie bit in truth he was just himself with some hairspray and a bit of facepaint).  And more for avid Seaneen baby followers… 

 

BBC Ouch Podcast-me and Mark Brown talk mental health 

Hello!  ​I was on the BBC Ouch podcast this morning with Mark Brown talking about celebrities coming out with their mental health, disclosure, the changing nature of celebrity, social media, sexism, Zayn Malik, mentalism and tea. And I also talk a bit about this blog (which is now so old it’s in its last year of primary school)   Listen to us here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04c13bz

The Loneliness At the End of the Story

Mark’s piece has made me want to try and put something into words that I’ve long struggled to, and that I probably will struggle to now (edit: reading over this, yeah, I did). I am struggling to write generally at the moment. Continue reading

Hiraeth/West Belfast/Home

Been a while, sorry about that. I’ve been in complete survival mode lately, just trying to get through the days and collapsing at night,  with Oisín’s sleep all over the place so I’ve been knackered. 

But somewhere in the back of my mind- and often at the forefront- is, “Does it have to be like this?” Do I have to work full time in London and commute 3 hours a day and only see my baby before bedtime, and weekends (although luckily I can work from home once a week too) , and work in a fairly responsible well paid job and still have to claim housing benefit in order to put a roof over our heads,  paying more than half my wages still to rent? 

It’s a dilemma that is tediously ordinary- most people who live in London have had it. Many do leave. At the moment though, we have no choice. The other viable option is to move, “Home”- “home” to Belfast, and Belfast has no jobs. Especially not in my niche, very London-centric field. I still have some sad ambitions of being a writer and making money off that, but again, the other tedious dilemma (and truth) is that we rely solely and utterly on me to make sure we aren’t homeless and hungry, and that also traps me in full time work, and makes me afraid to take any risks.  The pressure is massive and sometimes I feel like my brain is going to explode from it, but I’ve still stayed largely well so *fist bump*  But the financial noose is tightening, and we will never be able to have another kid here.

Life is very short. 

If someone handed me a wad of cash tomorrow and said, “Go back to Belfast”, I’m not sure I would. Belfast is the place I ran away from as a wild eyed, manic 17 year old. My parents always expected me to come back, each year, each phone call, and I never did.  Now my mum has moved out of the hated house of so many teenage miseries, where my dad turned yellow and died, and I don’t have a real sense of attachment to where she is now, or to those memories. I was incredibly unhappy there. It was a small minded, petty, violent, frightening shithole. It gave me many an interesting tale to regale Kent dwellers who’d never seen a machine gun, but so many memories I would drown in the deepest if I could, and I have tried. As a weird teen I dodged bottles and stones and spittle and I couldn’t wait to leave and took the first chance I could to. Why would I go back? It’s defeat.

Brexit makes it all the more uncertain –  economically,  NI relies a lot on the EU,  and should the border come up again there will be hell to pay. 

But…but.  My uncle was on YouTube the other day and he found this:

That’s my dad. That’s my dad, speaking, real and alive in 1998, vox-popped about the Good Friday Agreement in a graveyard. I haven’t heard his voice in a decade, I had forgotten it. Had forgotten how softly spoken he was when not drunk, and his wispy ever windblown hair. I had forgotten the smell of that coat- that very one, with pear drops packets always crumpled in the most remote pockets- the musty, male charity shop scent. I had forgotten that khaki grass and listless sky.

I didn’t cry when I saw this video, although I watched it in silence about 10 times. Then I showed it to my son (who at 17 months doesn’t understand, but will one day). I don’t know what I felt or feel watching it, sadness, longing, a certain sense of pride, nostalgia? A similar feeling I get on the taxi ride back from the airport when I visit,  landscapes, all wrapped up indelibly in each other. The mountains and trees and the graffiti. Of being there and leaving at the same time. Sometimes I feel as though my dad has flattened and become part of it, instead of the person, but most times I know that’s because it’s a preferable feeling to the chest crushing grief and regret of his fullness and life and death.

I’m from West Belfast in Northern Ireland- from right here, to be precise:

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I used to get incredibly angry when people said I wasn’t, “really Irish” because I was from the North. Because I was from West Belfast, which is poor, Republican, Nationalist, bilingual and which is an area that has suffered in every sense for it- economically, physically, emotionally- it felt like we had fought for the right to identify as Irish. That being really Irish is being a fighter.  I was a right wee Chuckie when I was a kid, because you were, being from there. I tried to explain this badly on Twitter one evening, when the vote for bombing Syria was happening. As a kid, you can’t rationalise that there’s reasons for things, you don’t know the mechanics of the IRA, they weren’t the ones on our streets with machine guns, raiding our houses, and you will hate the occupying outside force with a greater strength and unite against them, no matter who the internal bastards are, if they’re not the bastards dropping bombs on your head. It will backfire. I was a kid at the end of the Troubles and still lived through stuff I’d rather forget. I tried to articulate having this feeling as a child, who hated the British army and bottled them gleefully, and was told to, “do one” and then blocked by a fairly well known TV journalist. I understand why, of course, but I’ve tried to explain a thousand things about being from there, and have failed and have never been understood once in the 14 years I’ve lived here, or it been understood I’m always talking from the perspective of a relative child.

The more I’ve tried to explain and failed, and the less I’ve been understood, the less I’ve minded being not, “really Irish”. Because I’m not. I’m Northern Irish. With different culture, frame of reference, art, really fucking awful TV programmes, slang, politics, worldview. I’m not a Nationalist, and I’m only a Republican in the true sense of the word, but I’m not really Irish.  But the, “not really”, at least for me, gave me a shaky sense of belonging when growing up. A sort of unwanted feeling- the South didn’t want us (how as a child I wanted them!), the mainland certainly didn’t (fairly understandable really)- that I still sort of have now, living in London for my entire adult life. I’ve never felt like I belong here, either. You are, to an extent, whether you like or not, a product of your environment, and I don’t know how much my sense of ill fitting is just my personality or is a culture clash. I have quite a dark,  morbid sense of humour, which strikes me as a Northern Irish trait, a doggish type of friendliness and energy, which also does and puts me at odds with quite a lot of people I met, I tend to say what’s on my mind and talk much more quickly than my thoughts are formed which means I talk a lot of shite.  I find myself always trying to shut up. And speaking in generalities. I prefer myself when I’m in Belfast. But that could just be romanticising, just be trying to find a connection, a place called home.

I don’t feel at home here, but when I do get that throb for home, I don’t know where that is or what it means- if it’s qualities I have I wish I could share with people, or my family, or the landscapes (I got a bit emotional going through Yorkshire a few weeks ago, it wasn’t flat!) or the sense of humour, or the people. Whether it’s inside of me, or outside with my husband and son, or everywhere, or even in bits of London that I would miss massively. I moved a lot as a kid and I continued to when I moved to London. I’ve moved 10 times in 14 years, to find home, and I still haven’t. Whether it ever existed at all, or would again, or what it would be. I’m not and never will be English, and feel such a sense of shame over England politically I often don’t want to live here.

The closest I’ve come to pinpointing it was when I watched the Irish animated film,  Song of The Sea, just after my child was born.  It’s rich with mythology,  beauty and humour,  and is a study of grief and loss. And mythology was a way I made sense of my own feelings as a child.  To understand my own sense of not – belonging,  I used to walk around my parent’s room with a mirror that had broken off a dressing table.  I tried to get into that world beyond,  the mirror world that existed in our own,  the Tir na Óg. I’d try to lose myself in the farmlands behind our house and talk to the horses and birds and imagine they understood me. 

But that is hiraeth because it can never be returned to,  it doesn’t and never did exist. 

How will Oisín understand himself or his feelings,  with what reference? Where will he belong or feel at home?  Watching a documentary about London back in the day, expansive,  diverse,  grand and historical,  I thought if we moved him out of here he’d hate us for it.  But it’s also transient,  and many people we love face the same dilemmas and move on,  but also probably will in Belfast as adults,  as I did. 

I don’t know whether I want to bring up my kid in a place of my defeat but I wouldn’t live in West Belfast anyway. Robert feels Belfast as home- that one brief year he lived there affected him deeply- but it’s his home, birth home (not house, but place), we live in now, in Streatham.  And I like that, that forever and forever, our son will be from the same place as his dad, no matter where we go.  Belfast would have cousins for our son and people who could pronounce his name (although to be fair I’m sometimes unsure myself if I’m saying it right, because the South and North pronounce it completely differently). Belfast is different now than it was, although still backwards in some ways. That in itself is sort of exciting when I feel like London is shrinking and pushing everyone not rich to the fringes. What’s the point of living in the biggest city in the world if you live on the edge of it? But there are still rarely visited streets in the centre which are maps of my early years here,  where I remember. 

Anyway, I was hoping I could write this all poetically and meaningfully and try to explain something profound or interesting, but instead it’s come out as a bit of a jumble. Bollocks.

10 years dead

How the fuck did that happen? Here’s my piece about my dad.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/seaneen/7-things-i-learned-as-the-child-of-an-alcoholic-20ojv

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