Edit: Speaking of writing, here is a piece I did for One in Four on the subject of mental illness and humour:
It was much better before editing but such is the world. Read! If you like.
The following video is irrelevant but I should declare my love of the Divine David somewhere.
For a brief period in my adolescence, he was my ideal man. It’s no wonder that my first boyfriend was a verbose English beanpole plastered in make up and fond of making grand hand gestures. I wonder what happened to him? Oh, yes, he’s at work.
I had my first class today!
I feel rather silly making such a fuss. It’s only a little three hours a week access course, but I’ve been out of education so long that there’s something thrilling and terrifying about sitting in a room while someone fiddles about with a white board. I never tried to let my lack of education hold me back. My aspirations were always geared towards writing anyway. So I’d sit and, “Pah!” and twiddle my moustache and profess I would become a writer anyway, no degree required. But in some ways, I have always felt like I missed out. People spoke longingly of their student days and there was this whole realm of experience I had never even glimpsed. And I enjoyed education. I was academically rather good. My brain is a bit evil like that. It gives with one hand, then punches me in the face with the other. What a bastard.
I was very anxious beforehand and thus ran somewhat late. Thankfully, the taxi rank I live above noticed my panicked lighting of a cigarette outside and asked where I was off to. I told them, and also that I was running late, and they threw me into a taxi, without charge (although do I have to pay tomorrow? I’m not sure! I shall ask them). Ah, I love my taxi people. The journey was quick until we hit town, with the taxi driver swearing his nuts off at the seemingly endless procession of red lights. When we pulled up, I felt like I was in a film. “Go!” he cried, then, rolling his window down, “Good luck!” I waved as I ran, then it began to rain, a man with a harmonica appeared and started tapdancing…
There were about eighteen of us. A lot of people who want to be midwives. (Say, “midwifery” out loud- sounds like the face you’d make if you caught wind of a fart). I was a little nervous, because I’m not the best socially. This was part of the reason I wanted to do this course- even if my writing career magically takes off in the interim, I need to learn how to be around people. Writing is very isolating and solitary and I know I’m a bit of hermit and can treat the presence of others as something akin to a gross intrusion. The good thing about hypomania is that it takes the horror of out of socialising and sorts out my anxiety. But my natural disposition is to be a bit, well, odd. I don’t like the way I look either and over the years I’ve cultivated the habit of covering my face and touching my nose so much that people thought I had a coke habit. And I did make a few clangers, but, er, hey ho? I need the practice.
A lot of the people there had children. Children are a very thorny subject for me at the moment. Amongst other things, I’ve been feeling very broody and I’ve also been seeking counselling for my abortion last year, which I realise has affected me very badly (my sobbing for some days two weeks ago after getting some news, and breaking down periodically ever since, has kind of alerted me to that one). I don’t know how to talk to people with children- a mixture of jealousy and pure awkwardness chokes me and I find myself giving them a tight little smile. In our, “getting to know you” talks, I did this more than once, and kicked myself afterwards. The world is full of mothers, I just wish I was one, that’s all. But I need to live alongside them, and their massive prams. Bloody mothers.
The tutor was a lovely woman, an ex-nurse who had moved into academia. We did lots of little exercises, in which we got to know each other. One thing we had to do was write, within ten minutes, “The most significant learning experience of my life”. Y’know, I couldn’t think about anything other than mental illness to write about. It has been my life for the past four years. My entire existence has been dictated by it, my entire existence has revolved around managing it. I was quite ill before then, and there’s been periods since in which I’ve been quite ill, too. I remember my fury at being diagnosed and knowing that if I ever wanted to get better, I couldn’t be a normal twenty one year old. I hated everyone I knew for not having to take Lithium and drop out of work and vomit down the side of the bed, I hated people who could remember their lives and do their A-Levels. (And I was very pissed off when the psychiatrist slammed me with BPD, and that I didn’t need to go through the rigours of medications and my bad reactions to them in the first place. Grr).
But I do consider myself as someone who is recovering. Not fashionable to say on a mental health blog where OMGDRAMA is the order of the day, but it’s true! It’s taken me this long to get there, but I think I am. For most of my life it permeated every aspect of my living. I was very obviously- and thus very embarrassingly- mad. I mostly lived on the manic spectrum- my depressions had an knife of mania in them, too- so I was frantic, wild eyed, fast-talking, shaky, agitated, self harming, out-of-reality, laughing. I could barely function. Now, I deal with a lot of things better. I no longer just view myself as a manic depressive (if I am one at all), and that’s half the battle. I owned it, dealt with it, then let go. It’s a curve, and one I realised I was on after April, when I understood I had to let go of an identity, that focusing too much on it was holding me back. It can swallow you up. In that sense, the borderline diagnosis was liberating because I realised I had been viewing myself too rigidly. Of course, I went on to have a manic episode, but I managed that, although towards the end was horrible and I almost broke one of my windows. I’m managing okay with depression, now, too. The citalopram, as well as making me so very nauseous, is also making me a little tiny bit high, in the sense that it’s giving me more energy than I had previously and that I’m a little shaky and scattered. I’ve been hearing things, too, but for the most part, they are not frightening me, and I’m aware that I’m hearing things (though one or two times I’ve had to check the music wasn’t on, or that Robert was not in fact speaking to me, as I kept hearing his voice). I’m also aware it’s probably because I hadn’t been sleeping very well. I’ve had some bleak moments but doing helps, even if it’s just tidying up. I’ve been taking Seroquel occasionally to help me sleep when I need to and knock the edges off. I am terrified of getting very unwell and will do everything I can to avoid it. But I never thought I’d even be able to manage a tiny little three hour course- and I hope I can. I thought I’d be dead by now, quite frankly. I never imagined I’d see twenty five. I still feel incredibly sad when I remember that Rob said he didn’t plan a future with me because he didn’t think I’d be around to see it anyway.
The college already know I have mental health problems as I mentioned it on my form. Best to inform them, in case I go batshit and they have to coax me down from the roof. The little mini-essay was for her eyes only, so I hope that’s okay.
The workload is going to be immense. My first assignment is in two weeks, and I wondered, “What will I do if I fail?” I’ve never received a bad mark in my life. Part of me pondered over how I’d tell my dad, then remembered. I came away with enough paper to construct a ship from. I can’t afford to buy any books, but my social worker said the fund had stuck an extra hundred or so quid in so I could. I won’t get that money for quite some time, though, so in the meantime I’m going to have to just download and print disparate pages, or write on my knees like I did when I was a child. (I was so lonely that I used to draw faces on my knees then talk to them. I was a pathetic friendless loser, much like now). But hooray for social workers, she’s been very supportive and fought for me at the begging panel. I’ll apply for the disabled students’ allowance, so that if I fuck up utterly and can’t cope then at least I might get a few extensions. And in terms of my health, I’m just going to keep lying to myself about how I am until I believe it.
Afterwards, I wandered around for a little while then sat in Euston drinking a cup of coffee. I didn’t want to go home, not yet. I thought about striking up conversation with a man outside who was huddling over a fag. I lit one up, in an international symbol of camaraderie. But he stood up and walked away, so I lingered, like a very low class hooker.
There is a chance I may have to drop out and continue my modules next year as I applied for a travelling fellowship. It’s not an academic one, it’s, “to bring benefit to Great Britain”, so I opted to travel to Iceland and Spain and investigate the differences in cultural beliefs about self reliance in relation to the rate of mental illness and suicide. I won’t hear until mid-November if I get an interview or not, and I won’t go until February if I’m selected. But if I am, there’s not a hope in hell I’d turn it down. Fucking off for three months? Aye! I did get my own age wrong on the fucking application though, so it’s unlikely.
In the meantime, I still have a book to write so I’m going to get down to that. When I finish it, I think I may start searching for a part time job (fuck knows how I’ll get one! Employ me! Give me writing to do!) and get myself off benefits, but I will see first if I can even cope with the stress of a three hour course and its work, as it’ll be a good indicator as to being well enough or not for work. At this moment in time, I’m not, but I want to be. (And when I get transfered and they find out I have legs, I’ll be kicked off anyway).
So, off to writing I go now. Cheerio! I’m going to Belfast on Saturday, too. My little brother is out of hospital now so we’ll have some interesting talks and compare notes, no doubt.
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder