Hello! You can listen to me and the lovely @MarkOneinFour talk mental health, Prince Harry and inappropriate dancing on the BBC Ouch podcast this week. Let me know what you think!
Me and @MarkOneinFour on BBC Radio – Ouch: Disability Talk, Let’s talk about mental health … but then what?
Hello everyone who came from Blurt! And thank you Blurt for the hat tip-check out that link for more excellent mental health blogs.
Sorry there’s no TOP QUALITY BLOGGY GOODNESS here. That’s because I’ve been really busy. I returned to work after being signed off for two months so I’ve been pretty exhausted. I also have a new job that I’m starting next week, which I’m terrified about (leaving lovely Mind and all my lovely people! Everything and everyone I know! My first Proper Job!) but which will hopefully mean a better balance in my life (no three hour a day commute, hooray!)
I’ll write more soon but for now, here’s a cute picture of my son shouting, “Flowers!” and generally being happy.
At 21 I was mentally ill, couldn’t work, had a dead alcoholic dad and my mum on benefits across the sea. I would have been homeless without housing benefit. It’s not just a room or a roof, it’s a base, a safe space. Without that I never would have recovered enough to be able to work or have a child, I don’t think I’d still be alive. Stopping work and being able to claim benefits was a positive turning point in my life. That’s just me, one person.
This will badly impact on LBGTQ people, people who have been abused and can’t “prove it” (how do you prove emotional abuse? Physical and sexual abuse which shames you into silence, gives you a mistrust of anyone with authority over you, as well as the fact that some people rightfully fear the police?) Since the single room rate is for over 35s now anyway what’s even to be saved? Just more needless pointless cruelty.
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)
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)
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.
… 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…
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: