Blame it on the sunshine

Edit:  I’ve just checked my post, and have graduated from a Solo debit card to a Maestro debit card.   Solo cards are the debit cards given to people too irresponsible to breathe.   Having a Maestro card now gives me the freedom to make drunken purchases on STA Travel that I will later regret and then have to explain to my overseas friend who didn’t want me to come visit in the first place.  HURRAH!

A Maestro card officially makes me HUMAN, as opposed to the inconsequential wift of smoke I was back when I had a Solo card.  If I ever get a Visa, apparently my urine becomes a stream of glittering liquid gold.  If I ever get a credit card, then with everything bowel movement I make I get 10% splashback.


Firstly, I haven’t updated you on my granny.  She had an operation they thought would kill her but she was out of intensive care within two days.  Now she’s back at home, with people caring for her.  My granny is great.


Oh dear.  Everybody’s cheering for the impending summer.  Hooray! reverberates around the country.  The Divine Comedy wrote the hand-clappingly exuberant, “Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count” about it.  Everyone is lovingly unwrapping their wicker hats and jelly sandals.  Except for me.  I do love the summer, in theory.  Even the asphalt jungle of London takes on a kind of benevolent beauty during these cherry blossom months.  The streets, which ordinarily gust the stink of piss and burgers into your face as soon as you leave the smoke-stained sanctity of your flat, begin to smell of flowers and saplings, and other subtle but no less beautiful scents that catch you off guard, as would the unexpectedly exquisite perfume of a passerby.  

In theory, I love the summer.  In practice, the summer months are the most dangerous for me.

For some unknown reason, I tend to suffer from vicious depressions during the summer. Occasionally, I’ve had terrible manic episodes in the summer, too, but the rule of thumb seems to be that whatever episode I get struck by in the summer will be hellishly severe and last for months.  This time last year I was under the care of the Crisis Team due to an incapacitating depression that got so bad that I tried to off myself.  The year before I was very depressed.  In fact, almost every summer for the past twelve years I have become a cuckoo.

I seem to have a kind of reverse-SAD.  As with the rest of the world, I do sometimes feel terrible during the winter months.  The days are short and worthless, life practically has to be strangled out of them.  The skies are grey, the trees are grey, your floating face in the mirror is grey and if you had the energy to disembowel yourself, a long grey slippery rope would slide out.  But, to my memory, which, lets be honest, isn’t that reliable, I’ve gone through my worst manic episodes during winter, and my worst depressions during summer.  For a lot of people with manic depression, the opposite is true.

I have a few theories why this is.  The first is Sod’s Law.  Outside, the desirous hoards laugh and laze in the sun, everything feels so much easier, the world, more free, life, more hopeful.   My mind hates me and actively conspires against me.  So, it strikes me with a depression that keeps me separated from this carnival.  It conjures a force-field that surrounds me, keeping me in a gloomy stasis, where all coherent thought withers down to just the one; “I wish I was dead”.  Ha ha, Seaneen!  Now another four months of your life will go to utter waste and you’ll struggle to remember a single detail of this time that doesn’t involve googling the fatal doses of painkillers!  In your face!

The other is that it might be my fault, a little bit.  The summer nurtures my ever-present rebellious streak.  There are plans, things to do, and because the summer always feels such a rarity that everything is as though it is without consequence because all can be excused, I start to slip.  I embark on many picnics and pub outings with friends and throw caution to the breeze- if my friends can drink, then why can’t I?   Then a late night in which I forget my medication, then I forget the next night- and I don’t want to take it anyway, I’d  rather be unsleeping than sleep to three and miss the glorious mornings,  I can’t stand months of mediocre afternoons, so why should I even take my medication at all when nobody else I know has to deal with this, it isn’t fair, I want to be like them…

Alas, my medication does little for depression anyway, but missing doses is enough to kick me into an unstable paranoid hypomania that turns into a heavily negative mixed episode, and drinking makes me feel depressed.

The summer can exacerbate pre-existing “Ah bugger” feelings, too.   I can’t wear short sleeves because of my scars.  I could but it would make me feel exposed and I’m paranoid enough about my appearance.  So my clothes become suffocating (and I tend to overdress to overcompensate for my paranoia), my scars itch and burn and I feel ridiculous and apart, and that depresses me.  I’d love to be one of those woman in short dresses, I imagine what the gentle sunlight feels like on their skin and imagine how it feels to live within a bodysuit that’s so smooth and only bears the human marks of bumps and childbirth and childhood accidents, and not the obviously deliberate scars than mine bears.  It makes me feel crap to be in long sleeves all the time during the summer.

Maybe this summer I should experiment with,”Fuck Off and Die” chic.  As in, if you look at me strangely because of my scars, you can Fuck off and Die.  I did do the whole short sleeves shebang one summer in supposedly liberal and groovy Camden and people got up from my table and walked away when they clocked my arms, whispering about me.   But now my scars are far less shocking than they were, so maybe…

My raging depressions, and having this illness, pisses me off because I’m not unhappy.      The fact that nothing really seems to be wrong in my life exacerbates my feelings of helplessness, because I don’t know what to change.   It’s intensely frustrating.  It all feels very physical to me, and it always has done.  The sensations of falling into darkness, and the skin-crawling agitation and the feeling of slipping out of control all come from inside, not outside.  Pain in the arse, I tell thee.

Anyway, providing that I don’t die of Swine Flu first, I have to be careful this summer if I want to get to see my birthday in September.  Of course, I could be being characteristically fatalistic but my mood’s already quite messed up, in the sense of “hypomanic energy and irritation coupled with the, “Right, I’m going to hang myself” thoughts.  It’s nothing serious and I’m okay but at this time of year, things seem to get bad very quickly for me.

I’m utilising my usual mostly ineffective tactics to keep me out of the ground.  Trying not to temptingly isolate myself (I’ve been out recently, and had a lovely night at our local a few days back, except I got a bit tipsy and started ranting at my friends about good porn on the internet)  or to carry on getting pissed (I have had a horrendous couple of months and revisited my old friend The Booze to cope with it, and now I’m trying to go back to being teetotal, because giving up the booze was so fecking hard that I don’t feel like having to do it again),  trying to sort out my sleep, attempting to keep busy and productive with writing, trying to answer emails, although I “epically fail” at that, as tha kids would say, and trying to eat.     I do eat and keep it down, which is the important part, and I force myself to eat even if I’m not hungry.  I could genuinely subsist on coffee and tea at the moment, with a slice of toast if I’m feeling decadent.  Although I’m fairly fat so not eating wouldn’t do me much harm, it just, y’know, psychologically would.  

I still haven’t signed up to join the swimming pool but that’s mostly due to the fact that I just paid my rent and finally got a cheap external hard drive to save my ailing computer. I haven’t got enough left over membership fee and first month.  However, I have another trick up my wizard’s sleeve, which is not a euphemism for my vagina.

It is dull and exhausting having to be a careful person.  I’m fairly responsible and all, I mean, I am an adult, not an adolescent, despite my adolescent passions and impulses.  I pay my bills and that (I’m so grown up that I’ve decided to change supplier to save money), I’ve taken care of cats and they have yet to die on me.  It just gets really bloody tedious having to keep such a close eye on yourself and to accept the consequences/telling off when you don’t.  I’m not very exciting.  I’m not a daring harlequin cat burglar.  It’s tumbleweed all the way.  

I shall at least be having a restful weekend, as I’m visiting Rob’s parents and Hobbes, who reside in the bosom of the tiny Leicester village, Frisby on the Wreake.  It’s one of those rather pretty little villages that has one pub and whose shops close promptly at 4pm, so if you want a Twix you have to drive the required ten miles.  Rob is from another tiny village nearby, whereas I’m from West Belfast.  His hometown has lovely, lyrical street names and actual real life thatched cottages.  My council estate translates from Irish to English as, “The Green Hole”.  It’s certainly a hole.  It should really be called, “Cars Burnt Out, Shitty Mispelled Graffiti and Dog Shit Hole”.

I’m never quite sure how to behave around all that undisturbed greenery, and I have spasmodic attacks of guilt every time I stub a fag out in the grass.   It makes me feel like some sort of character in an American sitcom.  The garish hooker that is hired to pretend to be someone’s girlfriend, that’s me.   

I’ve also received the recording of the Radio 4 play but have yet to listen to it, I can’t seem to gather up the bravery to.  I will do, I’m just bracing myself for how strange it may be to listen to it.  

Before I go, here’s some photos I took on Wednesday that you may find FASCINATING! but most probably not.

I got dressed up like a tramp in cat hat and duvet Manicsfan coat (it was raining), took my camera to my desk, flat, and my immediate surroundings- nowhere more than five minutes away, to find interesting things that are around me everyday. Unfortunately! My battery died before I had the chance to ghoulishly snap Joe Meek’s Offing Palace, but I did get to the peaceful graveyard that is pretty much my back garden, my favourite newsagent and local cafe, and the farm that is five minutes walk from my flat, in Holloway, Zone 2, which is quite strange to me, and I can sometimes hear the roosters in my kitchen. Even though I got drenched, I enjoyed my three hour day trip to the five minutes around my flat. There may be some rubbish photos as I cannot be arsed to go through photobucket and delete things.  They’re big so stretch the page.

Anyway, have a lovely weekend and think of me wandering around fields trying to avoid flicking fag ash over startled worms.

Photos after the imploring, “Read More” tag.

Continue reading

The Bell Tolls

I love spring.  Even though I can’t wear short sleeves, I still feel the breezes tickle my skin.  I like gallivanting in the sunshine and listening to ear-splinteringly loud music as I tip my imaginary hat at the people who pass me by and wonder why the hell I’m tipping an imaginary hat.  

I gallop downstairs in the morning, or afternoon, it depends when I wake up, and check my post for cards, money and crack.  Instead, I find the renewal forms for Disability Living Allowance and a letter from Islington council illustrating that they are paying me the wrong amount of housing benefit and leaving me scuppered to the tune of £90 a week.  

It kind of kills the “spring has sprung” joie de vivre and puts you in a terrible mood all day.  I want to go and buy a pack of Malteasers but money woes mean that eating anything feels like swallowing coins.

Sorting out the housing benefit should be easy enough although they’ve left me absolutely buggered this month and £300 short of my rent.   All I need to do is go down there and shove my proof of benefits into their belligerent faces and in, oh, thirty years or so, it should be sorted out.  I am not panicking.  I have become an expert at this.

DLA, on the other hand, that I’m panicking about.  It seems to be one of those arbitrary benefits where the decision lies with the person marking your forms (and it is marking, rather than reading).  Mine doesn’t run out until October but in the meantime I have the rather disconcerting task of writing essays about my bad days.  Currently, I’m on middle rate care and lower rate mobility due to mentalism and the need for people to sometimes assist me with my mentalism.  If I drop a level, say to lower rate care, everything falls apart for me.  My housing, for one thing.  I’m under twenty five, so technically, I’m only entitled to the rate of one bedroom in shared accommodation (which is what they’re paying me now).   Because I live alone, and because of my DLA rates, I get a payment called the Severe Disability Premium, which renders the under twenty five rule null and void.  This means I can live alone in a one bedroom flat, which I do now.  Should the DWP decide I am not entitled to middle rate care (which I am, by the way), then it’s back to the paranoid hell of sharing and bedsits.  “How…not awful”, I hear you cry.  It very much is awful if you’re someone like me who not only suffers from crippling body anxiety and panic but also paranoid episodes of mania and depression where nothing feels sacred or private and I wonder if the person in the next room is listening to me with a glass.

I have a lot of help from the community mental health team.  I see my CPN every week and if they make a decision that jeopardises my mental stability, then she swoops in and says, “Hang on a minute”.  But I still hate filling in the sodding forms.  It’s a long exercise in, “Bloody hell, I am incapable” and rather demoralising.  Nobody likes being on benefits, despite the populist image that we all sit on our arses all day drinking cider and watching Jeremy Kyle.  It’s a horrible experience, having to rely on handouts to survive and feeling ashamed of yourself because you can’t work.  And because I live in London, my benefits don’t get me very far in the first place.  It’s a precarious existence, knowing that that help could be stopped at any moment.

I have my old CPNs forms for DLA here, which she filled out.  It includes my three official medical diagnosis, which are the mouthful- bipolar 1 disorder, rapid cycling with psychotic features, body dysmorphic disorder and bulimia.  Under duration, “10 years”.  Jesus.  And that was nearly two years ago.

The forms go into embarrassing but necessary detail about the things I sometimes need help with, such as not burning down my kitchen, getting dressed, eating, washing, tidying, being understood for the first few hours after waking up (I slur) and being outdoors during times of paranoia.  It’s all true but it is galling to read.

I had an appointment today where my CPN commented that my mood seems to have escalated again, which it probably has.  I talked to her about coming off medication and the fact that I feel almost brain damaged.   I really do, but she pointed out that it’s probably more down to my illness (it seems to be at least that repeated episodes erode your memory to the point of nothingness) than the medication.  It is intensely frustrating and embarrassing to be a twenty three year old woman with such appalling, appalling memory and who has trouble with her speech.  I can’t get my mind to work properly and sometimes I want to scream.

She pointed out that my medication doesn’t actually control my mood swings.  I seem to be, she says, treatment resistant.   Some people are, and I probably am because I went a long time without treatment and developed rapid cycling, and antidepressants only make me worse.  It is a source of constant annoyance to me. I still suffer from rapid-cycling moods.  The only thing that medication has helped me with is my sleep, and it caps the severity of the manias and therefore keeps me out of psychosis.  But, I guess, it’s better than nothing and has the least side effects for me, so we stick with it.

Rationally, I know that if I did come off my medication, I’d have to do it very slowly and pay intense attention to my moods.  The latter bothers me because part of the reason I want to come off my medication is because I’m sick of the intense attention I have to pay to my moods. I’ve come off the medication before suddenly and have become ill, in terms of paranoia and mania, extremely swiftly indeed, within days.  But, aha, would it pass or just get worse?  It’s a bit of a gamble.  It could all go disasterously wrong and I could find myself back in hospital.  Who knows.

My friend Jack came up to visit for a few days recently.  I have not been myself lately (it has been a traumatic two months), and have been wandering the wilderness for such a long time that my social skills seem to have deserted me, so I had no idea how to act around him, and act I did.   It takes me a little while to learn how to relax around people.  I spend so much of my time alone.  I ramble a lot but am often hypervigilant about what I say, and slip into a little analytical coma.   We were both in our own worlds, really, which aren’t the best conditions for visiting.  It was fun, though, and maybe the next time I see him I’ll feel more like myself again.

I’m trying to ease into sociability.  When someone visits you, it’s mandatory, you have to be social.  Otherwise, it’s your choice.  I’m going out tonight and tomorrow, and slowly beginning to reply to e-mails again.  

My body is returning to normal (despite- too much information- a week’s bleeding recently) so on Monday I’m going to join my local swimming pool to get in shape for the coming apocalypse.  My exhaustion and pregnancy weight gain means I have jellified.  I can be poured down drains, twisted round fingers.  I am soft, I will always be soft, but I want to be stronger.  I have always wanted my physicialty to reflect my mentality.  I’m very short, but not at all waiflike.  I don’t look like one of those vulnerable women so adored and protected.   You know, beautiful madness.   The fact that doctors and nurses think it’s so much more horrible for the mentally ill to be pretty and young.  Because I’m young, I’m supposed to be pretty and delicate, too.  And the tragedy is that illness and medication destroys it all.  How droll.

I’ve never wanted to look like that.  Because I have breasts and self harm scars and I’m a woman,  I have the appearance of someone you might be slightly afraid of.  I’ve always wanted to look like I could kick my way out of an inferno.   So I’m setting myself a little goal- to get physically stronger.  Swimming might not be the way to go, I should do training, but I hate the bloody gym and all its elastic people.  I feel lumpen and stupid there.   I used to love swimming but stopped going because of my scars and cuts.  Now they are fading.  So I can swim again.  It used to make me feel so free, but that was as a child, with floats and fun and games.  I used to sink to the bottom of the pool and kiss boys there.    I jumped off a diving board in a lake in New Jersey and was screamed at by my carers for flirting with boys while playing Marco Polo.  A chubby twelve year old, I was incorrigible.  I hope adulthood hasn’t squeezed the fun out of paddling in water.  

I used to wear swimming googles in the bath then submerge my toys underwater and pretend I was the daughter of a king, the king of the sea.  I’d let my head drift from side to side so it looked like seaweed, then be disturbed, and leap from the water, at the banging of the door, shivery, and shocked, clutching the Royal Family.

Woman with manic depression rams another car until hers bursts into flames, and dies

This is a grim story.

BBC Link

Daily Mail 

(the only two sources that mention her illness)

A driver burnt to death after refusing to leave her vehicle when it was set alight following a crash, an inquest was told. Continue reading

Oh bugger

I’m doing a BBC Ouch podcast this morning. I haven’t slept,  I’ve run out of medications and have a cold- so, I will be a rapidly speaking sniffing woman talking about bipolar disorder and will, let’s face it, sound like a fecking coke fiend. But if I’d slept late on medications (at 10am, that’s “early” for me, it takes at least two hours for my fog to clear), I would have been slurring so therefore would have sounded like an alcoholic. Rock! Hard place!


Edit:  It went okay, I just rambled and fidgeted.  I have no idea how to talk about this blog at all so I kind of…. trail off.  Still, fun.

I am bladdy exhausted.

And apologies that I am still mostly absentee, I am still attempting to extract my head from my arse.

To be, or not to be, or to be what I should not be

I think I’m a far stronger and more capable person now than I’ve ever been.  I sometimes feel like I can withstand anything and I’m not a hysterical mess who falls apart at the drop of a hat.   I do deal with this, I don’t idle along on the path of self destruction.  But…

Ah, whining! Hello there.

I want to stop taking my medication.  I don’t know how I’d ever learn to join the mortal world in natural sleep but I feel (or don’t, as it happens) that I’m anaesthetising myself.   I hardly even argue anymore.  I used to argue all the time.  I wonder if I am becoming one of those repressed housewives, whose hate or hurt or any antisocial emotion only comes out after a bottle of gin and the loosening of the tongue with valium, to a dead sleep and regretful waking.

So many people close to me, who love me and have seen me go mad, would credit my progress to medication.  I am more even now, less insane.  I don’t self harm, I haven’t wondered through the streets thinking I was being stalked by Danny John Jules in ages. I still experience the bleak depressions and my self awareness tips into ridiculous and strangulating self analysis.   

I wonder if I feel that I am losing myself due to the immense stresses of recently, or if I want to abandon responsibility and drift into wholly natural madnesses.    I always do the responsible thing.  It might just be because recently I had to make a gigantic decision that was based on having this fucking illness.  The sense that it is not fair.  I’m not singing the virtues of mania or mental illness.  I wish violently that it was not the cause of absolutely any single part of me, because that is not fair because the treatment means sacrificing parts of myself, and a lack of treatment means I will probably destroy my life or die, like I was heading for anyway.

I feel like I am less vivid than I was.   Less interesting, less, for want of a better word, intense.  I miss the invincibility, the confidence and the energy of hypomania.  People say I am sweet, but I miss the vicious streak in me.  Not hatefulness, but anger.  What is wrong with being angry? With justified rage?  I analyse everything to incoherency, where the end result is always the same:  My Fault.  

What has kept me on my medications, apart from placating people I love and the psychiatrist (and there is the question, the one I’d never think of anyone else answering, would never call anyone else this; am I weak?  Have I submitted, given my life over to the all-famed “higher power”?), is the fear of hospitals and the terror of the psychotic abandonment of my teenage and early twenties years.     The people who truly loved me look me in the eye and say I’m mad but they love me anyway; the others, they bring me to my knees with well aimed shame.    I don’t want people to think I am crazy, when I’m not.  Vicious, or cruel, or malicious in the slightest.   It is repugnant to me.

And I know in my worse times, and even my best, I can be relentlessly self pitying.

I know that this is just a mood disorder.  It’s just that.  I am a different person than I would have been without it, but I haven’t changed as a person- not the fundamental person- because of the medication or whatever.  Just some details.  There are other things, like the BDD- and mania, or more specifically hypomania, gave me a relief from that.  A security in my skin before the raging agitations told hold.  A feeling of peace and of transcendence.  Confidence.

If I am naturally mad (and I don’t mind being mad- I fear being crazy),  then what is so wrong with that?    I am furious I don’t have enough control over my moods to just live with it.

This is the manic depressive sonnet, really.  Romantasising illness, forgetting the awfulness, the misery, confusion, agitation, psychosis, hideousness.  However close to death and destruction our illnesses bring us, there is the lure of fire.  Of wanting to be atop the spinning plates.  It is not self destruction on my part, or even what will be will be; I am not someone who extols the virtue of rightness just because of what is natural.  Mental disorder is unnatural in a sense because it is a deviation, or at least seems to be, from the proper brain chemistry.  But it occured, and so it is.  

But all these experiences, horrible and not, and feelings and moods, they were mine and I don’t feel that they are anymore.   And I say this from the position of sadness and depression, where the lament of missing the madnesses is most resonating.

I am a mercurial person, I always will be.  But sometimes it just feels wrong to me that I take pills that mess with my brain, that do nothing for depression.  The diagnosis is a kick in the balls anyway but it was especially shitty to me to be diagnosed with bipolar I.  They throw everything at mania, and it was the severe manias that were the most life destroying for me.  But nothing for depression.  There is nothing I can take and often nothing I feel I can do.  And wonder if I will die without really living anyway.   If I’m going to die anyway why not be a harlequin atop my spinning plates.

Recovery, or the idea of it, that mirage, is equilibrium and I can’t find it.  Sand in my mouth, over and over again.   The medication has just left me as someone prone to depression who cannot form a sentence sometimes and who cannot recall a good portion of her life (although mania and depression eroded my memory, too).   My hands shake, I sleep, I have horrible dreams, my thoughts are in disarray.  I have become accustomed to thinking in pathology- is it pathology, all of it?   And a lot of my creative energy is focused on… this.  Not the blog.  But the thinking.  And the trying to figure out a way to live with it, and to live without it.  And always wondering if I’ve just been left to be depressed for the rest of my life.

I hated myself sometimes for being the reckless psychotic madwoman.  I don’t want to live without consequence, it’s not that.  But I rarely cry anymore, and I even miss crying.  I liked the fact that I was impulsive, for better or worse.   I loved more intensely.  I felt things more intensely.  And all the beauty of the world and the exquisite delights of love and the wonderfulness of the sense of touch,  the night air and muddied red lights, sirens and skin are still fascinating.   As dull and inert as I have felt, and as much as I’ve fantasised about kicking the chair from beneath me, or been far gone enough to not understand what is real, and what is not, and having no hope of knowing, I still spy the moon and revel in the impossibility of our existence and the one million little things that happened to make us who we are.  The moods can drain the colour from the world but it is the wrong way round; I am the grey one, the world is in colour, and I do not feel a part of it, and know I am loved, but have no understanding why, or even real belief in it anymore.  And I find it hard to truly regret anything,  and end up regretting the one big thing, that I am who I am, and wonder if I can even really carry on living with myself because of it.   

Sometimes, I just crave the freedom to go mad.  I wish it just didn’t hurt people when I did.  I wish I could be one of those types of brilliant mad people- the oft cited, yet always less mad than the people we know, the “a little bit mad”, acceptably mad ones.  Eccentrics, they’d call them.  I wish I could have a dial in me that I could set to “stop” when I needed to, naturally, not just “stop”, full stop.

It is crap wondering if you’ll have to be on medication for something you thought was part of your personality for the probable rest of your life when you’re twenty three.  I don’t feel like I can win either way.

Here lies Seaneen’s, “I want to throw my medication into the Thames” incoherant rants,  number 33.  This time I’m wondering if I should do it slowly, give it a go and see what happens.


Hello there! It’s very late, as I have just returned from one of my forays in the Really Real World.

I’ve been extremely antisocial lately.  I almost lost the ability to converse in the flesh;  I found my words tripped and spiralled and I didn’t know what to say, because there was too much to say.   How long has it been since I asked someone how they are?   Today I’ve been out twice.  I went for a cup of tea in the greasy spoon with my friend, where I fought the ever-present tremor my medication gives me by bravely spilling both my drinks and apologising for shaking like a geriatric alcoholic.  Then I went to another friend’s club night, feeling as though I had emerged from a decade wrapped in plastic, in a warehouse somewhere, waiting to be found, having given up shouting, having given up on ever making a sound again.   The world is baffling and new.

For the past six weeks I have barely worn make up or brushed my hair, and I have felt unwomanly, even though by all accounts I was experiencing the most womanly experience that womanly women experience.   It was strange to stand in company in eyeliner, to dance, to laugh and to be dressed up.    I am trying to ease myself into sociability again.   I haven’t felt alone even though I isolated myself, but I do still jump a little at the sound of someone else’s voice.

Thank you for all your lovely kind comments and e-mails.   I was so frightened the reaction would be horrible, so it was a great relief, and support.  I am, and have been for ages, behind in all correspondance.  I have had, as you can appreciate, a lot on my mind, and I’ve been going through it all privately.   I haven’t really felt up to replying to things.  

I don’t have much to say.  I attended my first CPN appointment in over a month on Thursday.  The “team” has moved, and surreally they have moved to a building almost exactly identical to the old one, save for slightly darker blue chairs and even more exposed wiring.  We talked a little about what’s been going on lately, but I haven’t felt like talking about it, I still don’t.   What is there left to say now?

She broached the subject of the future, but I sidestepped it.  I don’t want to think about that, either.  Not in terms of children.  It is a question I have had to think about for years due to health issues; if this has taught me anything, it’s that this is not the time to think about it, that I wouldn’t be ready anyway no matter how much I hypothesised.

I have to take a pregnancy test in another two weeks but I know I’m not pregnant.  Not only by the excruciating, shocking pain that heralded the end, but I knew I was pregnant instinctively, now I know I am not.  My cravings have disappeared, and so, largely, has the exhaustion, although I am still very tired.   I haven’t been sleeping well at all.  The hunger and the nausea has gone, replaced with an indifference to food.  My moods have calmed down and settled into a sort of blankness.  After the storms comes the silence.  Sometimes I am rushed by sadness.

And there is the emptiness, the little emptiness.

I am coping, better than I thought I would be, which makes me feel callous.  It is in part not thinking about it, nor ruminating on all the issues of self worth/self worthlessness that it raised.  I was spiralling into a horrible place, and now I am clawing myself back out.  I don’t know if I’ll continue to feel okay or not. It comes and goes. I feel bad that I’m relieved to have my body back, but to me, where body control is an issue, it was terrifying to be aboard a vessel I couldn’t steer.  

For now what I would like to do is start properly writing again and to conquer my inertia.  I think I had a life to return to.

Recent events.

Just so you know.  

edit:  Thank you for your overwhelmingly lovely comments.  Apologies for the cynical introduction.  Rubbish mood and was dreading writing this post as anticipated abuse.

I believe that the private life should be private.  There are things I will not discuss here, and that’s the way I like it.  There’s a lot of reasons why; just that some things are personal, sometimes I worry about other people’s reactions, and so on.  I used to be much more open and write about everything, but as I’ve become older and more independant, I’m more selective.

Sometimes I wonder if I have prostituted pain for the sake of this blog.  That I have shared too much of myself.  It’s a cynical view but there is an undeniably voyeuristic element to mental health blogging.  When someone is disintegrating, we check back often; in part to see if they’re okay, and in part to see if they’re not.  It is human.

I’ve been writing this blog for over two years, and you probably understand some things about me, and have a grasp on what sort of person I am.  But it is still, in part, a story.  As all lives are.  People will dip in and out of here in a way that they couldn’t if they existed in my real life.  It can become fiction. So it can cheapen experience, because it is only really real to me.   So I hesitate in sharing some things, because I don’t want it to be just a thing.  

I’ve been alluding to things not being great over here, and I haven’t wanted to discuss them.  Not in real life and particularly not on this blog.   I haven’t known how to talk about it, and have felt that if I did, it cheapen my feelings on it, and I have not wanted to invite comment or judgement.  Most people know now, when it was happening, a few people knew and I have had their support and love.   I haven’t felt like answering the phone much but my sisters especially have been with me through it all.

But I feel that if I don’t talk about it here, I will never be able to write in this blog again, and that I will never be able to be honest with you again.   I don’t want to pretend that nothing has happened, because something has happened and it’s not a little thing that will slip for me and leave me blissfully unaffected.  And it is relevant.  

For the past month I have been suffering from bone-snapping exhaustion that has left me borderline functioning.  And there were other things, and I wasn’t sick and it was the obvious cause all along.

I was pregnant.  And I’m not anymore.

I had a termination at six weeks.  It was the hardest and most heartbreaking decision I have ever had to make in my entire life, and I am not okay.  

I have always wanted to be a mother.  I had a miscarriage two years ago.  It was very early, before I even know I was pregnant, but it made me think about motherhood.  I have PCOS, which makes it difficult to conceive, but losing a large amount of weight seems to have almost banished the symptoms.  I can’t adopt.  

I thought that when it happened, I’d be happy, and I’d know that I could cope and that somehow everything would be okay.  I even thought that if it happened now, while I’m twenty three, it would be okay.  That I would have this gut instinct that told me it would be okay.

I have apologised every single day.  I’m so sorry because it won’t be okay. It would never be okay.  And I can’t do it and I’m sorry that I can’t do it.

From the beginning of my treatment, I have been warned against becoming pregnant.  It is so very dangerous for women with psychotic illnesses.  The six weeks of my pregnancy gave me a tiny glimpse into the possibilities, the thing I had feared so much.  That I would become seriously ill.  And that I might hurt myself or my child.  The hormones affected my moods so badly.  I came closer to self harm than I have done in over a year.  I wanted to kill myself.  I fantasised about hanging myself.  I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t want to see anybody.  I cried and everything set me off, I screamed and raged.   I started to drink.

And already within six weeks my body started changing.  I have put on half a stone and my legs began to swell up.  I found it utterly traumatising because it was all for nothing.   And I found it traumatising because I have BDD and it terrified me to watch my stomach and breasts grow when I couldn’t do anything about it and when there was no reason.

I am not well enough to have a child, or to raise one.  I’m a rational person but when I am very ill, I am not rational.  My stability is being held together with scotch tape at the moment.  I could not bring a child into this world when it might not even have a mother, and when I might hurt it.  My granny hurt my mum.  My mum hurt my sister.  The gamble that I would kill myself or hurt my child was too huge to take, as was the certainty of my inability to even provide for it.  I’m twenty three and on benefits.  I live in a small one bedroomed flat and none of that is going to change anytime soon.  I cannot gamble with a life.  And I am not ready, in any shape or form.

And Rob knew it too.  As did everybody close to me.  And it broke our fucking hearts.  

I have never felt more of a failure in my life.  Around the same time this happened, my housing benefit was stopped.  So on the day I had to take the first pill, I dragged myself to the benefits office to sort it out (and it still isn’t).  I wanted to throw myself in traffic because of the acute failure I felt.    I have a risk assessment that deems me a risk to others.  I am covered in scars and there are people who think I’m insane.  I am not insane, not crazy, not mad, but not able to have a child.

I want to one day.  We both want to one day.  I want the day to come where I can do it, where I have the deep, abiding instinctual certainty that I would be a wonderful mother.  The certainty, and the instinct, was not there.  And I was too afraid to even talk about being pregnant because I didn’t want to begin to get excited over something I knew I couldn’t do.  So I didn’t.  I cancelled all my CPN appointments and shut myself away and just dealt with what I had to do.  And it was harder because we’ve been together for four years and have talked about having children.  This wasn’t just a whoops slip up with a one night stand.  We wanted to be happy that I was pregnant instead of knowing that if we had a child right now we’d ruin our lives and theirs.

I’m Catholic and I know all the pro-life perspectives on abortion. It’s one of the reasons I have found this so hard.   I’m an atheist but that morality has never left me.  I had the medical abortion (the pill, which was so painful I nearly went into shock.  I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t scream, I just wanted help and for it to stop) because it felt more natural.  This is not what I wanted in my life.  I could have been selfish and had the baby and risked it.  But I knew and Rob knew and the CPN knew that the risk was too great.  And I would never be able to give up a child for adoption.

People who want to judge me, just don’t bother because you have no idea what I’m going through.  I did not make this decision lightly.  It ripped me apart to make it and both Rob and I have been crying.  It was only six weeks but it was still something.  But you tell me how I bring a child into the world that I can’t afford to feed and clothe, with a pregnancy that might kill me, with an illness I have to cope with for the rest of my life, with medications I wouldn’t be able to take, with the very real risk that I would hurt the child.  Tell me how I would do that.  Just hope and wish it would work out?  It wouldn’t.  And what an enormous gamble to even make.  If I fuck up and die, then that’s my life, and everyone around me will be devastated but they will cope and be able to continue their lives.  But I cannot do that to a child that I bought into this world.  And it isn’t fair because I wish it was different.

I have been crying and raging for the past couple of weeks.  If I sound angry, it’s because I am, in part at myself, and in part because I know that writing here is going to illicit some judgemental responses and that it’s a dream for those out there who hate me and like to tell me so.  But these past few weeks have been absolutely awful.

So that’s what’s been going on. Pretty much everyone knows about it now.   I have been logical and reasonable and am just trying to get through it, I am absolutely sure it was the right decision but it doesn’t mean that I am not devastated that I had to make that decision in the first place.  The only saving grace is that it has bought me and Rob closer together but I have no idea how I’m going to feel when this is physically over, hopefully I’ll be okay.  I don’t know how I’ll feel in the long run.  At the moment I’m just very sad.   I do know it was the right thing to do.   I don’t want to pretend that this hasn’t happened because it did.  And I don’t want to pretend that it was a little thing for me, because it wasn’t.

£25 for three nights sleep

Today I got a little bit of a taste what it would be like to live without the NHS.

My surgery isn’t open, and I’ve run out of medication.   I don’t sleep at all without it, so Rob went to the chemists to ask what could be done.  They said they could give me enough for three days, but that I’d have to pay for it.  Assuming it was the price of a prescription, I traipsed to the chemists armed with seven quid.

It was actually the price of medication, and a three day supply of my dose (450mg) of Quetiapine costs over £25.  £25 for three days.  I have been swallowing gold for two years.  No wonder I still feel like shit.

Clearly, I couldn’t afford this so settled for half the dose.   I might not sleep anyway but I’ll have more change in my pockets.  I could have left with nothing but three days without any medication at all would send me loopy, it doesn’t only help me sleep.

How do you people manage?  I don’t know the ins and outs of health insurance but I am assuming that some people have to pay for their medications out of their own pockets.

Has anybody got a link or information as to how much, say, a month’s supply of the generic version of psychiatric medications cost?   There’s some information on this site but aside from that, not much.  How much do you pay?

One in Four- Blog Round Up and Self Harm

Hello!  I have been knee deep in personal life shit recently and forgot to pick up my prescription, amongst other things.  Nowhere is open until Monday so I have a weekend where I’ll be yelling, “HELLO! HELLO! I AM VERY AWAKE! ARE YOU AWAKE? WAKE UP AND TALK TO ME! I WANT TO TALK ABOUT WORMS” ahead of me.

One in Four’s new issue is out, so thought I’d subtly point you towards the Blog Round-Up I wrote for it, as some of you feature in it.  I was quite careful in who I picked to write about.  Although I love so many mental health blogs, at that time, at the turn of winter, a lot of people were undergoing crisis and I didn’t want to glare a spotlight on them which would just put pressure on people.  I was going to include Mindriddles but decided against it.

Sadly, Bipolar Mo seems to have buggered off!  Where are you, Mo?   Speaking of which, Wife of a Schizophrenic has been incredibly quiet, too, and I emailed her without getting a response.

And here’s the short article I wrote on self harm, too.  They’re not my best, I wrote them when I was quite unwell and my command of sentences and bodily functions had deserted me, and are, of course, edited.  Still, hope you like them.  The self harm article is part of their Mythbusters series.

One in Four is the mental health lifestyle magazine written by those with mental health problems.  You can order your copy here, which I suggest you do. Penny Red‘s also involved with them, they’re a good lot and they don’t write patronising little pamphlets so often aimed at those with mental illness.

For those averse to clicking links, here’s the Blog Round-Up.  ‘Scuse all this self promotion!

Seaneen Molloy award-winning blogger and writer, shares her five favourite mental health blogs

Once upon a time – when dial up modems still ruled supreme and using the phrase, “Google it” in public elicited raised eyebrows – the only information regarding mental health was recycled medical journals and painfully slow loading charity websites.

Blogging was once maligned as the mainstay of 16-year-old girls who insisted that the world really needed know what they had for dinner.  Now, it’s become a legitimate rival to print media, with many major newspapers hosting blogs.  Opinion pieces are increasingly taking precedence over factual journalism, and some bloggers command the respect, and occasionally the fame, of their inky counterparts.

The world of mental health boasts its own community of bloggers (affectionately dubbed by some as the “madosphere”).  First person experiences of living with mental health problems were, before the internet, confined mostly to booklets stacked in doctor’s waiting rooms.   Now, these experiences are freely available to read online.  

Bloggers can be valuable allies in demystifying dispassionate medical journals.  The information regarding mental  health online is helpful,  but the language can be abstract and distant.  What does mania actually  feel   like?  How do people live with depression?  How can I help someone with a mental health problem? Am I alone?  The flourishing collective of mental health bloggers help to vocalise the realities of living with mental health problems.  Some of the blogs are funny.  Some are sad.  Some are written in three times, then abandoned.  Each is unique.

Blogging is also an equalizer.  For every blog written by someone living with a mental illness, there’s another written by a psychiatrist, and a carer, and a nurse. The world of blogging has given patient and doctor a place to freely interact beyond the boundaries of professional relationships.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like at the other side of the doctor’s desk, then wonder no more.

There are many varied and valuable mental health blogs out there.  Here are just five of them.

Marine Snow:

Lola Snow is the pseudonym of a twenty eight year old self confessed blonde who “eats sugar free jelly with chopsticks”.  Her blog, Marine Snow, is a recent addition to the mental health blogosphere and chronicles her progress as she recovers from an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are a notoriously contentious topic.  Even recovery blogs can come under fire for being “pro-ana” just  by virtue of adopting a non-judgmental tone on the subject.  Lola’s blog is not a pro-eating disorder website, however, she doesn’t shrink away from describing and acknowledging the impact that her eating disorder has on her life and her mental health.  Her frequently updated blog entries are inspirational, and she discusses her experiences with an intelligence and candour that’s commendable as well as compelling.  Her comments page is also host to lively discussions, and  she has published an exhaustive list of eating disorder resources. 

The World According To Me:

Nessa is both a doctor and patient; she’s training to be a GP in her native Columbia.   She has a serious crush on The Joker, a weak sense of smell and she suffers from recurrent depression and Avoidant Personality Disorder.  

Nessa’s been writing her blog for over two years, and she vividly describes how her illness affects her life, and particularly her studies.  The poetic eloquence of her prose is straightforward without being gratuitous, and her descriptions and experiences continue to resonant with and uplift many readers. 

Bipolar Mo:

Mo is a cynical forty eight year old with a sideline in weird photo captions.  And, as the title suggests, he has bipolar disorder.

There is a wealth of bipolar disorder blogs out there, but Mo’s is notable for its humour and honesty.   He writes about topics familiar to a lot of people with the disorder- medication and all its assorted side effects, the merry go round of moods, the flux in energy, the casualties of memory, the psychiatric appointments and the impact his illness has on relationships.  His tone can veer into world-weariness, but there is always a spark of mischief in his prose, and at his lowest ebbs he still manages to rally with wit.  His blog is punctuated by impassioned polemic regarding the wider social issues of stigma and discrimination faced by those with mental health difficulties.  And it also features some quite frankly bizarre photoshop images.

Fighting Monsters:

No-one knows what a bad time it is to be a social worker more than  Fighting Monsters .  With the recent “Baby P” scandals, the only job title it’s worse to have right now is that of head of an international bank.

Fighting Monsters  is the “life and thoughts of a British Social Worker”, who works within a mental health team that cares for those aged over sixty five. She’s extremely passionate about her job and is a voice in defence of her profession.  Her thorough, articulate and illuminating blog meticulously dissects the stream of media criticism directed at social workers and explains the various policies and procedures of her job.  She also writes comprehensively about the day-to-day operations of her mental health team, casting light upon shady subjects such sectioning and life inside a psychiatric ward. 

Her cases also feature prominently in her entries, which is partly what makes her blog so compulsively readable.  Many mental health blogs focus on the young, and she provides a unique insight into treatment of the elderly within mental health services.  She writes frequently about topics that are sometimes neglected within mental health literature, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Considering that 3.5 million people over the age of sixty five suffer from dementia or depression, and only 15% of them receive mental health services,  Fighting Monsters  is an often poignant insight into a somewhat neglected section of society. 

Wife of a Schizophrenic: 

Some people canonise carers as selfless angels who sacrifice themselves for someone else.  The relationship is a simple one that runs one way: the carer gives, the patient receives.  But carers are not angels.  They are partners, family members and friends.  And a person is not a patient just because they are unwell. 

Mr Man’s Wife, not her real name, is married to Mr Man.   Mr Man suffers from schizophrenia, and is cared for by his wife.  She doesn’t care for him out of duty, or selflessness.  She cares for him because they’re deeply in love, and they adore each other. 

Wife of a Schizophrenic is an unpretentious, engaging and deeply human account of life with Mr. Man.  It charts his hospital admissions, his wife’s frustration with the mental health system, his symptoms and his recovery.  It illustrates their life together and the various obstacles they’ve faced as a couple, including Mr Man’s Wife own struggle with depression.  She also deconstructs many of the hysterical media myths about the illness, which provokes a lot of thoughtful debate. 

Although Wife of a Schizophrenic is a wonderful blog, I’d like to read more first person accounts of what it’s like to live with schizophrenia, and other psychotic illnesses.  Sadly, in the blogosphere, they are few and far between. Schizophrenia is a complex and misunderstood illness, and I hope in the future that more people who live with it feel that they can blog about their experiences.

Seaneen Molloy’s (get it right Mark!) award-winning blog is here.

Fun at Radio 4, and the not so secret life

Here is one of those somewhat garbled posts.

This week has varied from the fascinating on Monday and Tuesday to the f’kin awful today.  

The fascinating was being at BBC Birmingham for the recording of the play. I don’t have one of those jetsetting lifestyles where the average day consists of a hastily grabbed latte (or something, I don’t know, the coffees with the funny names that mean “milky coffee” or, “really strong coffee”.  I drink tea) and a croissant before sitting on a train for a few hours with a laptop, balancing overpriced tea ferried via exhausted staff and a mobile phone in their hands, then rushing into a monolithic building for a meeting, then they stay in a hotel conveniently located for local strip clubs, waking up at 7am feeling bleak and exhausted.

Getting a train and visiting a new place is a complete novelty to me, as is staying in hotels next to strip clubs, so I was rather excitable, and so was Rob. Even though it was Birmingham.  (Birmingham.  Birmingham has the oddest museum I have ever visited.  Some of its exhibits included a glass cup circa 1985 and a display of, “Voices of Birmingham” or something similar, where schoolchildren had the chance to show the public how they felt about their hometown.  There was one, “Birmingham is a hole lol” and a lot of, “Shania is FIT” type things scrawled haphazardly on coloured paper).

The BBC building is vast and modern.  The Midlands news is filmed there, which Rob was delighted about.  There is a Dalek on the first floor and the reception took a photo of us standing next to it.  

The studio was big, with a glass partition and those wonderful old 1970s clocks.  It had wooden walls so it reminded me of one of those amateur porn sets.

I’ve never been inside a proper radio studio (“All in the Mind” was tiny, two mics, one with a little face drawn on it so I felt rude speaking into it), and Fiona gave us the tour.  I was shocked; I had assumed that radio dramas were recorded in one place next to a microphone and that all the sound effects were added later.  What there actually was were a series of rooms, of varying size, one of which was totally padded with jagged sponge to make one sound as though they were far away.  There was a staircase that led to nowhere which had different types of material glued on so that the sounds of wood and carpet and metal could be made.  There was a props box (I had fun with the horn), a piano, even a set of doorbells all for the front doors of fictional houses, each with their own sound.

I had my camera with me but didn’t take too many photos because I felt that it would be a bit rude to shove my lens in people’s faces.  I regret that a little bit now. 

We met the cast, which was utterly surreal.  Amazingly, they managed to get an actress called Seainin to play me, and even more amazingly, Belfast once again yields to its tininess- Seainin is the cousin of one of my childhood best friends.  See, people may roll their eyes when an American asks an Irishman, “Do you know Kitty Murphy?  She lives in Galway”, but more often than not, the chances are that eventually one will say, “Oh! Kitty Murphy?  Is that Mary Murphy’s daughter?  She used to be called Mary Heenan?” “YES! That’s her!” and there will be much joy.

It was a relief, though, as absolutely nobody in the world can convincingly imitate a Belfast accent if they’re not from there.  I had imagined an English woman studying clips of Iain Paisley’s speeches and taking notes. 

That there’s an actress who’ll have a portrayal of me on her CV, and an actor with Rob on his, was also extremely surreal.  (They’re called Seainin Brennan and Joseph Kloska, if you’d like to google them, fact fans.  Rob was jealous of Joseph’s lovely hair). 

Before I left, Lou (the writer) handed me a little bag.  In it was a card and a gift, and the gift was a moleskine notebook, the kind that Proper Writers like Hemingway use.  I didn’t know what to say, I’m terrible at receiving gifts, but it was so lovely and it’s sitting next to me right now, respectfully empty.  I usually have one of those Chubb hardback notebooks that I carry around but it’s disposable so I just end up doodling in it.  This deserves proper writing, arch observations, little scraps of reality.  I want to buy a proper pen to go with it. 

It was fun, and everybody there was fantastic.  We joked around and had food and chatted and I felt involved and excited.  We spent the night in a hotel, an impossibly fancy thing for us, even though our view was burger shops in Birmingham.  We watched Stewart Lee and ill-advisedly necked two bottles of cheap wine, just because it seemed like the done thing in a hotel.  On the second day I was an hour and a half late due to an onset of near-fainting in the hotel lobby (not at all embarrassing, eh) and having to lie down again.  Even more embarrassingly, because I hadn’t slept long enough, I had a Seroquel hangover and am pretty sure I was slurring.  

The recording lasted a day and a half. It was so strange to be there while people acted out scenes from my life and received direction and knobs were fiddled (fnar).  I occasionally had to leave the room because there were things about my dad I couldn’t listen and there was some quite harrowing stuff I found painful.

I deliberately didn’t offer too much feedback to Lou’s script- firstly because it’s her play and not mine, secondly because she’s an incredibly talented writer and I am a blogger but thirdly because I am too close to it to be objective and I would pick apart everything for that reason, and it would never have been made. Although Lou was incredibly respectful of both me and the blog.   I kept a bit of a distance and didn’t realise until I was actually there how hardcore some of it would be.   I think it’s neccessarily hardcore, though.  If it was just a fluffy little play about ha-ha the mentals then it would be pointless.   

The dad stuff I found impossible to sit through but I’m glad it’s in there.  He is massively important to me, and I have written about him often.  The rest of my family don’t feature so much, but I did ask for them not to, as I didn’t want to piss anyone off, or invade anyone’s privacy.  Although now my sisters are sad they don’t get roles! 

Because of the way my dad lived, and died, I have always felt that I should tell people that just because he was an alcoholic, it doesn’t mean he was a Jeremy Kyle-ite abusive bad father.  He was just a lovely man destroyed by his drinking.  Media portrayals of alcoholics so often fall into the stereotypes of the fusty academic, the drowning housewife, the middle class man who drinks to cope with pressure, or the working class man who drinks and kicks the shit out of his wife.  My dad wasn’t like that, and neither are many of the others out there who succumbed like he did.  And it wasn’t his fault.  So I am thankful that he’s in there. 

It begins with my hospitalisation and diagnosis and goes from there, in the early stages of treatment and of this blog.   It doesn’t progress in a straight line, as it shouldn’t, because life doesn’t work that way.  It follows all the little things we deal with then; trying to accept the diagnosis, the medication and all its side effects, coping at work, coping with feeling as though we’re going mad, and with the knowledge that everybody can see it happening. 

It has lots of light, though, and we did get a “bollocks” in there.   A bollocks on Radio 4 in the afternoon!  It is about the blog as much as anything else and the inclusion of comments, which I was initially not very enthused about, works well and adds to the sense of a mentalist community (which we are, let’s be honest).  There are scenes interspersed with blog voiceovers.  The Insane Guide…features, hurrah!  I should write more Insane Guides.

The stuff between me and Rob is touching and bittersweet.  The Rob in it has a bit of Rob’s strangeness (I never know what Rob is going to say when he opens his mouth).  I hope that people do find it interesting and enlightening, although it can be challenging listening as it isn’t a sugar-coated portrayal of mental illness.  I’m glad about that, as bipolar disorder tends to be the one where someone is a bit depressed one day then writes some beautiful poems.  It does portray the cyclical, incapacitating and relentless nature as some people experience it.  The style its written in has some rapid, overlapping dialogue and music during the more manic times, which I think will be effective.  

It doesn’t cop out, either.  There is no tidy resolution where the protagonist is suddenly fine and trumpets blare and the world is put to rights.  Some might see that as fatalistic but it’s more so realistic.  All too often in portrayals of mental illness, the result is suicide or total recovery.  There is the dull middle ground; it goes on and on.

In short, it’s a well written, well acted play that I hope will make people think, and laugh, and empathise with and help demystify a tricky subject, and also maybe will further the whole, “People with mental illness are just people! Who’d have thunk it?” idea.  As with everything, some people won’t like it, some people will.  And Boy Cat and Girl Cat are in it, so it will be the best thing on Radio 4 in the history of Radio 4.  I have yet to hear it in its finished form so I’m as much in the dark as you as to how it will all sound.  It has some fantastic music in it, too.   I’m chuffed to be able to attempt to indoctrinate people with my tastes.  

It was a pretty weird experience.  Unrepeatable, and I’m so glad I’ve been involved, and that I was there.    I’m getting the CDs so will send them to my family.  My granny is dying to hear it.

Because I am paranoid, here is some clarification/context on a few things.

Continue reading

BBC Radio 4, 2.15pm, 8th May; Dos and Don’ts for the Mentally Interesting…

Thought I’d write about this now as it’s being recorded next week.

“Dos and Don’ts for the Mentally Interesting” is the BBC Radio 4 play based on this blog that I’ve briefly mentioned before. 

It’s part of their afternoon plays, and is airing, as far as I know, on BBC Radio 4 (on radio, DAB and online), Friday 8th May at 2.15pm (for certain this time,  I kept getting the sodding date wrong).

What I also want to mention is that some parts of comments on this blog, by which I mean very few,  have been worked into the fabric of the play.   They absolutely respect the privacy of the commenter and have no identifying information whatsoever, no names etc.  Most people use pseudonyms anyway but it’s all been changed.   It is just quite general stuff, nothing detailed or personal.  They also date back from 2007 (the play is focused on a few months and stops well short of the past year) and in most cases, I don’t have working contact details because a lot of the people who commented then, and now, did so once or twice without leaving working e-mail addresses.

The reason I haven’t really talked about it before is because I haven’t had enough details to tell you, and although it was commissioned, due to my being overly cautious, I wasn’t certain it was actually going ahead and didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.  It’s being recorded next week, so it’s pretty much going ahead now!

If any of you want to ask questions about the comments or want clarification/are concerned, let me know, as I can give you the e-mail address of the development producer, and she asked that I do pass it on.

So, this is just me keeping you informed.  It hasn’t been recorded yet so I have absolutely no idea how it will turn out and it still feels a bit surreal.  I’ve read the script, which is partly my witterings shaped by the (excellent) writer, focused on the whole being mentally interesting stuff, but in a, y’know, sensitive and funny way.  And it features some great music.  Hurrah!

(And sorry for being largely absentee, there are still things going on here that are crap, that I need to deal with and that I don’t feel able to talk about.  I am stressed and sad and my head is firmly lodged up my hole at the moment.

JOY!  Still, ‘citing!)

How My Dad Died.

Originally written in April 2007

I was asked in comments to write a story about my dad here.

The way my mind is working at the moment, I can only think of negative and horirble stories, doused in alcohol and soaked with sickness.

I have very few specifically positive stories of my dad. Plenty of lovely memories, but they are fleeting, small events like him making us Toasted Toppers or his insistence that Graham Chapman deserved a better looking boyfriend than David Sherlock.

Wedding Day

I’d never been to a wedding as a Grown Up. Nor a reception or any suchlike thing. The first wedding I remember was that of my aunt and uncle, Anne and Brian. Anne is a blonde model who appeared in speeding adverts, I’ve seen her in a bridal gown only once before, and that was on an advert on Ulster Television- “40 miles an hour!” with blood rolling apologetically down her dress. She used to come back from filming in England (“You’ve been to England?” we’d gawk at her) with those fat red dummy rocks in clutches for us. My uncle Brian is a big nosed, fresh-faced lovable man who has raised his three children to have quiet country burrs which is somewhat exotic to me when he brings them begrudgingly to their aunt’s house.

At the time I was nine years old and wasn’t taken to the wedding. My granny Molloy looked after me that day, in the only time she had ever been to our house. I remember her with her red slim face, which always looked like a warning triangle, taking my hand and us walking to the Dairy Farm, a supermarket near my house, where she bought me a pink keyboard. Then we went to the library where I proceeded to be kicked out as I was too fascinated with my first ever musical instrument. I managed to retain my dignity and my Asterix books, whereupon I rechristened myself Cacophonix.

That day I seemed to inherit a new family. At the wedding my mum met some of her family, The Mallons. Edna had a sharp tongue and fast humour, then there were her three daughters- Angela, Ceri and Michelle. Their ages corresponded roughly with the ages of me and my older sister. Michelle was the youngest so we were expected to get on. We were utterly different people so were never close.

So one wedding created a new family. The next was the day after my 18th birthday, the wedding of my uncle Michael to a quite well-to-do middle class girl called Fiona. Her family were much more respectable than our rough West Belfast one.

My uncle Michael looked like Damon Albarn. My sister Paula and I used to boast to our school friends about this. His fiancée was a social worker, tiny, buxom, blonde and beautiful. I first met her at a bedside vigil for my granda. I’d never met her before and remember feeling insulted rather than touched that she had come here while my grandad was so sick. In that respect, I’m quite traditional. For all my running-off-to-London, I believe in the family and find “outsiders” intrusive sometimes.

The wedding was in Bangor, and my dad was determined that we weren’t taking a feckin’ train that day. We got a taxi, god forbid, all of us piled into one black cab. He wanted us to be stylish, just as good as them, he said. But he was brimming over with happiness, as he always did when we were all together.

We found ourselves outside the church with a half an hour to spare and a bit peckish. “There’s a reception on later, Da,” says Michelle. Imagines of vol-au-vents, quiche, delicately decorated salmon en croute filled our minds.

But it would be hours before we had the chance to eat.

In our new clothes, we went to KFC and smeared ourselves with greasy chips and microwaved gravy. We sipped flat coke out of enormous buckets and liberally ate cold chicken.

We went at breakneck speed to the fancy Gothic church, stinking of fast food, gravy on our lips and the odour of old plastic seats sticking to our arses.

Twenty minutes later my other uncle Brendan (sarcastic, amusing vegetarian, much beloved of Paula, much resented by me for wrecking my carefully constructed house of cards) shows up, late and distressed and bangs on the window, Graduate style, to be let in. The priest shook his head and we all froze in horror and laughed as he strained to watch his baby brother getting married through a window, occasionally letting loose a fly of words that made the choirboys blush as he batted unruly twigs away from his face.

I wish

I could end the story there and that it would be Full O’ Larks. But of course with my dad in tow the day turned ugly.

He got drunk, completely pissed, and refused to be told otherwise. He was loud, embarrassing, abusive and disruptive. We ended up having to look after him, pleading, begging and crying.

I don’t think, until that point, his family believed us when we said his alcoholism was severe. But as the evening progressed and his behaviour got worse, I think it finally clicked that for all those years, we had not been exaggerating. Michelle, Paula and me were just exhausted, exhausted, humiliated and depressed, wanting to be a Proper Family out at their uncle’s wedding, instead of three ringmasters in the arena of my dad’s illness.

I have a lot of guilt concerning my dad. Not just that everything we did didn’t stop him from dying. But for childish things.

My mum and dad had prolific and devastating fights almost every night. My dad would eventually stumble upstairs, screaming obsenties. And my sisters and I would huddle in their bedroom and talk about how if we pushed him downstairs, we wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore.

We had many comical scenerios as to how we’d get rid of my parents. And they were comical, we didn’t actually want them to die but craved silence.

My dad rang me up on my 16th birthday. It was one of the periods he wasn’t living at home and I had assumed he was calling to wish me a happy birthday. Instead, he told me he was going to kill himself.

Sometimes I wish he had done. There were times when I violently wished that something, anything would end his and our suffering. I knew always that alcoholism was a disease and an addiction but it’s scant comfort when you’re in the living room with your little brother and sister trying to block out the crockery breaking in the kitchen.

I wanted something quick and painless and it would be over.

I was outside work once. At the time, a friend of mine was suffering from serious depression and they had rang me earlier to tell me they were going to kill themselves. This was sometime during 2005. I took the phone outside and tried to talk them down but I was petrified and shaking.

When Vicky died, I prayed to whatever gods there were that I would never have to go through it again. The stark memory of sitting down on the chair being told she had hung herself, the starker memory of walking down the forest the same night, vision blurring with tears, standing on the roadside we had walked upon destroyed me.

I got off the phone to my friend and lay back against a wall with a cigarette.

Suddenly, the image of someone calling to tell me my dad had killed himself flew into my head and took my breath out. All those times I wished it had happened pulverised me and I felt like the worst person in the world. The reality, the already-grief of his dying laid me on a fold up chair in tears.

I had always believed he’d get better. I held that hope to my chest, to my heart, to every minute of the day. I believed that with our help and willpower, he would recover and live to say, “When I was an alcoholic”…

The Reality of it

When it happened, I didn’t know what to do.

My dad had been in hospital for two weeks or so. It started innocuously enough. I was on the phone to my brother when he made a joke about my dad looking like one of the Simpsons. I asked him what he meant and he said, “He’s bright yellow”.

That night was a Saturday and I was alone in my flat. And for some reason, I got my mum on the phone and said, “I think daddy has liver failure”.

She didn’t really take me seriously so I told her I was going to call NHS direct. I described my dad to the nuse on the phone. Jaundice. Alcoholism and, in the background, his slurred voice.

I rang my mum back and told her I was calling an ambulance. I rang them in London and asked them to transfer me to Belfast. Rang them up and sent them to the house.

I was on the phone when they came. I heard my daddy protesting that he had an appointment with the doctor in June (it was the end of April) and that he was fine. I told my mother to keep trying and spoke to the ambulance staff, telling them I think he’s very ill and please make sure he goes.

He didn’t. He refused the ambulance and my mum called someone else, I can’t remember who, I think it was psychiatrist services. He finally went.

A few weeks passed. Phone calls here and there. I didn’t go home as nothing sounded serious. He was filled with fluid and had acute liver failure. I assumed he would get a transplant.

I had a holiday to Belfast booked on the 18th of May to introduce Rob to my parents. It had been booked for a while. I had spoke to my daddy on the phone and he was looking forward to seeing me and Rob on the 18th. He sounded fine.

On the 16th of May, while I was in work, my sister Michelle sent me a text saying daddy was dying now, right now, and to get home.

I called her, then called my sister Paula who was in the airport on her way back to London. She didn’t want to make a fuss so I called the nurse to make sure Michelle wasn’t being hysterical.

The nurse told me to come home.

Paula turned round and went back to the hospital. I had no money whatsoever and couldn’t change my flights. Jo and my boss at work started printing out train and flight times. I appealed on Livejournal for someone to help me get home. A friend lent me the money, I booked my flight, kissed goodbye to Rob and flew home.

I met my friend Tracie at the airport. She had some ham sandwiches and a bar of chocolate for me. I was filled with dread. I couldn’t, would not think of my dad dying. We sped down the long, dark, 10pm roads. I laid my head against the passenger window and stared at the greyscale countryside.

I met my sisters in hospital. I was not prepared for what I saw.

My dad was so clearly and obviously dying. I burst into tears.

When my grandad died, my drunken, grieving father shouted that the next funeral we would be at would his own.

I had not believed him. And here it was, his dying.

He was so afraid of death and that’s mostly what was on my mind. Did he know? A nurse leant over his bed and told us it wouldn’t be long. I was horrified, what if my dad heard? Was he afraid?

He was yellow and ancient and couldn’t breathe- he couldn’t see or talk and he was so clearly dying. I started crying as soon as I saw him, held his hand and tried to tell him I was here but I don’t know if he knows I was. I thought at least he would be able to talk, there was so much to say. He looked so different and my sister assured me he had only become this bad within the past 24 hours. Before that, he was able to talk and I hate myself for not going home 24 hours earlier.

We stayed the whole night in the room, holding his hand, talking to each other, going to the smoking room and watching his monitors. I’d bought him the issue of Kettering- I had thought he would be conscious enough for me to read him to him, he had wanted to read my Neil Innes interview, because he was a fan and he was proud. He’d gone round telling everyone I was interviewing him. I had been so hopeful he would be conscious. I desperately wanted to speak to him. Wanted to hear him say my name.

Michelle left to sleep and Paula left to smoke and I tried to tell him that I love him, he made no sign he’d heard, just groaned and fiddled with his breathing mask.

He kept trying to take his mask off, and we kept putting it back on. A few times he’d clutch his head, like he had a headache, like something so normal, a headache. He tried to sit himself up a few times. He tried to sleep.

He must have known we were there. He kept holding Paula’s hand while I stood on the other side and stroked his hair. It made him sleep. In his sleep, he said our names. All our names, his five children.

He said. And he did say, although my sister denies it, “I don’t want to die”. It could have been a trick of the ears but I am sure he said it. And my heart cracked in two.

He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but the doctor said he wasn’t in pain. He kept pulling out his wires and tubes- he was so scared of ending up like my granda that Paula told me he’d been pulling them out since the beginning. He always believed he’d be going home and on some level, so did I. I thought this would be a lesson, he would stop drinking and get better. I thought he was brilliant because recently he’d been sober more, and he was going into rehab this month.

Hours passed of him taking off his mask, falling asleep, waking up. The morning came, we hardly knew. About eight am or so we called our mum and asked her to come take our place for an hour while we ate something. We didn’t want to leave, we agonised over it but we needed something to eat. We expected to be there days, we were getting ready for it.

Before we left, Paula stroked his arm and said she’d see him soon. I kissed his forehead and told him we’d be gone an hour but we’d be back.

At about 8am, our mum came and we went home to get some food.

A half an hour later, the nurse phoned and told us to come back. We tried to wake our little brother up but he wouldn’t wake up. After some exhausted, frustrated screaming at him, he got up and smashed the china set my dad had bought for my mum.

We got to the hospital. Liam went to the toilet and we went up to the ward. Tacked on the curtain was, “NO VISITORS”. And my dad had died there, without us at about 9am on 17th May, a day before Rob and I’s visit. Aged forty seven, a month before his 48th birthday.

We howled. I had to go and find Liam and tell him. He was in the corridor and I didn’t know what to do or say. I just had to tell him that his dad died. How do you tell a fifteen year old that?

I remember standing by my brother and sisters and crying, I remember hugging my uncles, his brothers, and his mother, who had lost her sister two weeks ago and her husband seven months ago. It is not fair, I remember thinking that over and over.

A nurse came in and said, “Did he have a wedding ring on?” Nothing else- “NO” and then, “Did he have any gold teeth?” “NO” get out of my sight and she did and I hated her so much.

They took him away and kept hassling us saying they needed to do it now. We said wait because his brother isn’t here yet, my uncle Michael was on his way. Before they took him away we said our separate goodbyes and had our time with him. No-one will ever know what we all said, and I am glad.

They took him and we organised the wake at my grandmother’s. It was best to be there, it was his real home.

I slept after that and the next day Rob got here. We spent the next days at my grandmother’s. He met everyone in my family, except my dad. I wrote the obituary with my little sister and it appeared in the paper with many others, and flowers arrived and two big wreaths, “DAD” and “BROTHER”. I got away with much as a lot of my extended family and friends didn’t realise I was his daughter, so there weren’t many, “I’m sorry”s or tearful hugs. That hurt me slightly because I wanted some hugs but I had Rob, my sisters and uncles and brother and that’s all I needed, all we needed.

The coffin was in the room and they did a good job, he looked like my dad. I couldn’t understand why he was there, none of us could.

The priests came and went and on Friday night, Paula, Brendan my uncle and I stayed with him on his final night. We talked about a lot of things, not really my dad, and didn’t sleep. Everytime the automatic air freshener went off, we jumped.

The funeral was on Saturday and at first I didn’t think I could do it. My sister held my hand as we listened to the priest before they took him away. I couldn’t stop crying. I said goodbye again, I said I’m sorry.

My fifteen year old little brother had to carry his dad’s coffin.

On the way up to the church we noticed one of the men carrying the coffin had something written on his bald head and neck in green marker. He didn’t know he had it.

After the funeral, we went to the PD, a Republican bar my dad and our family went to often, and had a buffet and a drink. Since then, I’ve felt very little. I’d been sleeping in his bed and going through photographs, taking some and not taking others in the knowledge he’d kill me. But he isn’t here now and I can’t really understand how. As time wears on, the truth of it, the real truth of it, is beginning to dawn.

I don’t know what to do now. There’s years ahead without my dad but I still feel as though he’ll be back. I never want to remember him as that man I saw in the coffin. I hate Catholic services. I’m worried about the future for my mum and the kids. I’m worried about my granny. I don’t know what to do without my dad. He’s the one who understood us and helped us. He paid my rent once and bought our Christmas presents. He taught us how to read and ride our bikes and taught us how to write and taught us our history. He got me into comedy and music. I have all his David Bowie vinyls now, as promised.

The last time I saw him was Christmas 2005 and he had stayed sober, it was lovely. There is a photo of him in the bedroom, arms outstretched and smiling and you’d think he didn’t have a trouble in his heart until you notice his wrist, a huge gaping wound. He was not a happy man and that kills us. We tried. We love him so much.

My sisters joked we should put lots of IOUs in his coffin with him because he helped us with money when he got ourselves into scrapes. I wanted to put his comb in there with him. Paula could barely look at him but when she did it was to fix his hair. He would be mad at us if he’d known we didn’t shave his head for him.


Life is TAKING THE PISS right now.  I think my Jeremy Beadle god is up there rolling the film, tittering, “How much more can she take?  Let’s see!” then hurling shit in my direction. 

You know those rampaging madmen who end up huddled in the corner of a clocktower, picking off people one by one with a sniper rifle?  That’s going to be me one day.   I’m going to be one of those women on, “SNAPPED!”  You’ll remember me by a frozen photo back in the good old days.  Then a voice will echo, “But she seemed so nice, so nice, so nice….”

I am emotionally, mentally and financially done.   I’m trying to be “chipper” and keep both my cool and my humour.  I’m hard as hell but I am really struggling right now.

I might be making mountains out of dunghills but I need a fucking break (and a rant, clearly).

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