Who Are You?

It’s finally snowing in London! Albeit fartily and pessimistically! Although the church looks suitably romantic, sneakily hiding the sludge being kicked to its rotting gravestones.  Neither of us slept last night, so we went out at 5am to leave footprints, me in my pyjamas.


Robert promptly fell asleep when we got back.


I didn’t, and am on hour number 40 awake.  So!

An open question to you all!  Who the hell are you?

In the past few months, have you may have guessed, I’ve been thinking about identity. It had been on my mind for a while.    Personality and identity are different; personality is who we are as a whole, composed of traits, identity is what we define ourselves as or by.  Personality I find easy- I’m me, there you go!  I’m pretty much the same where you find me.  Identity, that’s more complicated.

I have always found it odd that people have an impression of me from this blog. I’m not sure what that impression is (comments and emails give me a hint), but naturally, over time, regular readers would have formed an idea of who I am. Likewise, with the radio play-adapted from a blog, which was written selectively, in certain moods, at certain times.  (The play being quite a bit more interesting!)  There are periods in which I grandstand somewhat, forcing humour.  Or times when I am too dramatic, in ranting moods.

I too have formed impressions of you, readers and other bloggers!  Purely from what’s disclosed on the internet, in a fairly specialist area- and that, I think, is a little bit dangerous.

Then there’s Facebook and Twitter, in which everybody- maybe not consciously, but they do- crafts a persona. We present highlights, overly jovial tidbits from our uniform lives, or use it as an outlet for every annoyance, every niggle.

And, with me and many of you- mental illness. All the defining syndromes, in which people are prone to make gross generalisations, are generalisations. “The Mentally Ill”. “HIV Positive People”. “Drug Addicts”. “Alcoholics”. And so on. They are defined socially- in many cases, negatively- in a way that other illnesses aren’t so much. Some illnesses- like cancer- might have a hand in defining you through how you live with it. But in the eyes of the world at large, the definitions they, often wrongly, apply to you are largely positive ones. Very few alcoholics are brave, to those who use the term.  (My dad was brave).

People get filtered through this and that, until you find you don’t recognise the person other people perceive you to be.  In my case, in some circumstances, I feel that way.

I think that because there is so much stigma attached to certain conditions, when you get diagnosed with one of them, and are in your right mind enough to absorb it, you can become defiant and it becomes a part of your identity. It’s understandable and something I’ve done.  I realised the dangers- obviously- of identifying myself too much with a particular diagnosis when that one was dismissed in quite a tactless way, and I still haven’t resolved it.   That aside, though, when something affects your mood, your behaviour, who you are at times- it’s difficult to separate it from your core self.   Especially if you are in the system, when a lot of who you are is pathologised.  Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, guilt.  What is me, what is it?  Is there a difference?

I have felt defined by mental illness sometimes- certainly, given that I write this blog, it is part of me.  There are parts that have shaped me; I don’t think I would be the same person at all if I hadn’t experienced some of those things.   Speaking earlier to Robert talking about our ways of interacting with people (he is getting much better at it), I mentioned that in terms of mentalism, some of it had been very isolating, because I acted in ways that sometimes people didn’t understand, that I found profoundly embarrassing afterwards.  So now, I’m quite guarded about making new friends when I feel alright, and when I’m down, I’m a recluse anyway.  That’s been something big, which I didn’t really understand until fairly recently. (I went into it a little on my anti-social anxiety post). In terms of personality, at least, I’m not particularly depressive- if we were talking a “spectrum” of mood, my normal mood is quite cheerful.  But I am lonely, often, without the balls to actually ring up people and say, “Include me, please!” because I have let so much slide.  So I am annoyed at myself for it.  At the same time, it’s helped me with a bit of balls and confidence.  I know I can be quite scary when I want to be, and I know I can be dominating, and that’s partly borne out of resilience after years of my brain being a bastard.  And living with this stuff has helped me, in some ways, to be a bit of a thrill-seeker, in a way I don’t think I would have been.  I tend to do stuff just to do it, however silly it is.

I identified with manic depression a lot, because it seemed to me to finally explain some things I hadn’t understood, and to give me the language with which to explain it to others.   I identify less now because I’m not sure it’s accurate, but I do still think in terms of highs and lows, and when I try to talk about it, it’s the only language I can find, it’s what I grasp towards, it’s what I touch.  I want to reclaim my own language.

But I also have other aspects of my identity that are bugger all to do with mental illness.  When I was younger, my music taste meant a lot to me, whereas it doesn’t now. I’m not sure why I value it less now than I did. I don’t enjoy gigs, particularly, so it might be down to the fact that I often prefer to be alone, and music can feel intrusive.  I find it hard to talk about music I love- it feels personal, private, in the same way discusses a lover does.  I prefer to read, or to write with something- sometimes music, sometimes the television- on in the background, quietly, politely.  I identify a little as, “comedy fan”.  I identify as a writer.  Whatever a writer is- someone who writes, who likes to write, who does it for a job? There are various political things I identify as- one being as a woman. Which in itself is a political act, to define yourself by your gender. My womanness is central to my identity- as a feminist, as a blogger, as a human being. Being born with a vagina has meant that most of my experiences have been dictated by it ever since.

I identify- quite forcefully at times!- as Irish.  That, again, is part defiance.  I’m from West Belfast, a very Republican area of Northern Ireland.   It’s a little pocket, largely spun from the lore of the ’60s and ’70s, the good fight.  The good fight, of course, involving murder.  My family were never particularly insular, despite being very Republican.  Lots of people from my area had- when I lived there- never met someone from another country, and regarded Protestants as The Enemy.  My family- my immediate family- aren’t like that, so they didn’t hassle me for being in love with an Englishman,  having two best friends who were dirty Huns or my decision to unceremoniously bugger off to London when I was seventeen.

But I grew up being told, repeatedly, that I was British, when my love was entrenched in Irish mythology, when I studied Irish language, when our accents marked us out as Taigs.  Though Northern Ireland doesn’t have its own culture, not much of one, but that’s something for another post.  People from the South used to say I was a half-bake, neither British nor Irish, when I regarded myself as more Irish than them because I fought for the right to call myself so.

Since I moved to England, I felt even more Irish than my teenage pouter alleged to be, when people were astonished at the closeness of my family, at the way we dealt with life- in a quite common Irish way, i.e by shouting a lot, drinking a lot and taking the piss, a lot.

And so I identify myself too as part of a family.  I am a Molloy.  We are fiercely protective of one another- possibly to the point of stupidity- but there it is!  Up your arse.

Likewise, I tend to identify as working class, though few would peg me to be, largely due to the grotesque and blind way people view those of “the underclass” or working class as being rather like, “The Drug Addicts”, “The Alcoholics”- a one, a mass- if particularly ignorant, then one and the same. I dress, “eccentrically”, I seem clever, I like to read and I’m not an alcoholic or drug addict- how could I have been raised by an alcoholic early retired man and a woman on benefits on various council estate in West Belfast?  That is their fault, not mine.  I’m aware of some stereotypically middle class behaviour in myself.  I have not the money, nor the background, to be authetically middle class, but I do have three types of pasta and two different types of sugar, which, if most British stand-up comedy is to believed, makes me middle class.  I also read the Guardian and Independent now instead of the Andytown News and An Phoblacht, so I am middle class.

Now I can’t go out this afternoon because my social worker appointment has been gipped around and I need to go for more form filling in reasons.  Sometimes, I feel I know where I stand all too well!

So, I’m curious- what defines you?  Do you feel your mental illness has a hand in your identity?  What else does?  As life goes on, does your identity change?  Do you become a mum, or a patient, or a doctor, or anything and then it becomes you?

Tell me what you think, I have five ears.

EDIT:  Someone in the comments said it would be interesting to ask the people who know us.  I did that earlier, when I was ruminating over the things I wanted to say here.    In terms of mentalism, his position is, “to some extent” but it’s not how he thinks of me, nor the first thing he thinks about me, that other things are more important and more persuavive.  There are things about it he almost admires- my ability to do without sleep and to function very happily without it- and he sometimes doesn’t understand why I go through periods of feeling intense, overwhelming  guilt until he connects it to the periods of depression.  So, in his eyes, at least, it’s an irritating backseat passenger, whispering into my ear, “You’re a cunt”.

Reading your own medical records: SCUNDERED

(Scundered is a Northern Irish word for mortal embarrassment).  I debated posting this because, well, it’s unflattering!

So, was I an unstable manic depressive teenager, unstable borderline teenager, just a teenager, or all or none of the above?

Oh god.  I read my records.  I saw them.  I laughed. I cringed.  It was in parts painful and hilarious.  They were mostly concerned with my teenage years and very early twenties, when I was in and out of, “the system” (I was always chucked back to it when I became depressed, to appointments and shit where they made my mum come) with people being concerned about me at school for my dreadful attendance.  The hilarious bits were my teenagehood, letters from school and etc- I was the self-harming, stroppier version of Adrian Mole, morbid and obsessed with death.


So, they were only my GP records, not the juicy psychiatric stuff, but there was enough of that in there.  I had taken enough money with me to photocopy things, but I didn’t need to, in the end.  There were few surprises.  Some big inaccuracies (but in retrospect, there were important things I never disclosed to the doctors and I was only ever sent to doctors when I was depressed- the inaccuracies were things I’d mentioned before- I didn’t cut my throat on a hospital ward, I didn’t taken an overdose after a fight with a boyfriend), some mistakes (some amusing- I saw the forms for my asthma attack aged 2, which referred to me constantly as Shannon, a two year old boy), some omissions (there was about a year of stuff not there) but not many surprises. Continue reading

Nostalgia for madness

I don’t know if I’m down or whatever.  It’s a Friday night and I’m sitting here on my own, feeling quite quiet and inert, without the rain to listen to, smoking and occasionally making tea, aimlessly flicking through web pages, flicking away again. I am a little lonely at the moment, and it makes me wonder if I am down more.  I only really feel lonely when I’m down.  At other times, being alone doesn’t bother me.  I enjoy it.  But I’m looking forward to my yearly invite to the Community Mental Health Team Christmas Party, where, for two hours, the local mentals like me can stand around drinking fizzy pop and playing games.  It is invariably the only invite I get at Christmas.  I’ve never gone.  I think hovering and being roundly patronised might tip me over the edge.  This year, though, maybe I’ll go.  Free food.  It’s not to be sniffed at.  It’s to be eaten.

Sometimes I think I was more interesting and alive when she was actively mad. It is stupid, but I miss it. When I stumble across reams and reams of my ramblings, filled with lyrical words and plans and ideas and follies, I feel so nostalgic. I loved more, and more intensely. I had more friends, I had more of a life. Was more daring. More passionate. I do miss it.  A large part of me wishes I had never taken medication, never medicalised something that, for most of my life, I thought was just a part of me.  With or without medication these days, I am viligent, as is everybody around me.  I am grateful for that, for that care.  But I miss it.

Would I have died?  Or driven everybody away?  I know it caused problems in my life- I cling to that knowledge, because it is important to remember.  I lost jobs, I lost friends, I had the steadfast love of a few people, but it was tested.  Their ability to cope with me- and it was coping, which makes me shrink in shame- was often stretched to its limits.  People worried about me, and most people who cared about me expected me to die.  Rob- my ex boyfriend- said he didn’t want to make plans for our future because he didn’t think I’d be around to see it anyway.  That was hard to hear.  I was very lucky he didn’t walk out on me.  He would have been right to.

But the actual processes of “healing”, well, that did as much damage.  That I should ever have taken medication is now up for debate, and that in itself was so trying.  The sicknesses, the shaking, the physical transformation, the exhaustion and slurring.  At least without it, I was myself.  With it all, I was someone else.  I was, “manic depressive”- it defined me, I still, to an extent, even with having that diagnosis taken away, am defined by it, and allow myself to be.  If they are wrong and I never needed medication, that is what I resent the most.  It killed all the thoughts in my brain.  Everything became about The Illness, and I am now even more self obsessed because of it.

During the summer, I had a bit of a taste of it again.  Laughing and free, creative, embracing strangers and strangeness, fearless, spending money like water on little presents for people, on dinners.  The agitation and shaking was horrible, and it all went wrong, all turned paranoid and raging and scared, then a crash.  Robert dealt well with it all, except the crash.  He hated that I didn’t feel, could barely cry, move, speak, feel anything but leaden misery.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  It was frightening to him, having lived three months with someone who found it hard to stop moving, stop speaking, who couldn’t sleep.

But having stopped taking medication recently, part of me hoped it would happen again.  It hasn’t, and I am vaguely disappointed.  I had been afraid of it happening, knowing, in my more clear moments, how destructive it can become.  But it is the thrill of the taste- the first taste, the sweetest one.  Almost worth it for the gorge that would make you ill.

If I could control it, keep it at a manageable level, I would live my life like that, forever.  It would be exhausting- and I know I am exhausting when I’m like that.

I do miss it.  I wonder if I am just missing someone younger.  Maybe this is just growing up.  Rose tinted spectacles.  I often loathed myself after high moods.  I often acted in ways that were profoundly humiliating and sometimes hurtful to people who cared.  I could be incredibly irritating and insensitive. Hideously, relentlessly self obsessed.  Loud and inappropriate.  Some people absolutely hated my guts. When I had mixed episodes I was a full on nightmare of agitation and despair for weeks on end and when the dust settled and I came back down I spent so long apologising.  It fuelled the savage depressions that followed, and fuelled the ones I have now.  The most prominent in feeling in every single one of them is guilt.  And some of the guilt comes from those times.  But these days, even with odd things, like remembering how I thought Satan lived on my wall, hearing voices telling me to kill myself, believing I was being followed,  I think, “Well, at least it was interesting”.  Forgetting, conveniently, how scary and isolating it was at the time.

I know recently I have accomplished more than usual, I’ve just done it slowly.  When you’re a little high it’s so quick- you stand back and look at what you’ve done, and it’s there, within the day, even if its ruinous, nonsensical.  If it’s not done by then, you skip it, you move on- Something else!  I enjoy thinking in the long time- languorous dreaming of house boats and people, and what I want to do, where I want to be, who with, and when.  I work to getting there.  It is important to me.  I know if I was really unwell, and it is sickness, that I may not get there.  That this quietness is better for that.  When I wanted to be a writer for a career- and I still do, truth be told, in my heart of hearts, I just feel I will never get there, not enough for me to make a living from it- it wasn’t so bad to be mad and up and down.  It made me unreliable, yes, but the up bursts, they could be handy.  Madness is novel to lots of people.  They care less.  As a nurse, though, it’s a health hazard.  I need to control it as much as possible.  In that sense, I want to.  I want to be a great nurse.  I can’t do that if I’m actively mental.

But sometimes, I miss you, mad Seaneen.  I hope you are still inside me, somewhere, without having to be coaxed out by something fizzing in my brain.  I hope I can coax you out with something else, with not caring about looking silly or being laughed at, or of failing.  Just don’t be afraid anymore.

Mackenzie Taylor 1978-2010.

Yesterday, I woke up to a text from Jon telling me that comedian and fellow mentalist Mackenzie Taylor committed suicide on Thursday.

Mackenzie at Warning: May Contain Nuts in May this year

I didn’t know Mackenzie well.  I met him when we were both involved in Warning: May Contain Nuts in Berkshire and Sussex, and we spoke very occasionally on Facebook,  but this news was still a shock to me.  The last time I saw him was only last month in Brighton, after the gig.  He was withdrawn and quiet, and I knew he’d been dealing with a lot lately.  But I wasn’t sure if that was just his way- he seemed shy and modest in general, and rather gentle.  (Despite being so tall and strong looking that you could imagine him overturning houses using only his big toe, without flinching).

He had schizoaffective disorder (which he eloquently discusses here), and one of his shows, which he took to Edinburgh, was called, “No Straitjacket Required”.  Most of the routine was about his suicide attempt that landed him in a coma.  In great, stark, unrelenting detail.  Which isn’t- you might think- comic fodder, but it was genuinely funny, arch and humane.  When I saw him perform it, I remember laughing in recognition at his description of the brain-noise of bipolar being like having the worst ever experimental jazz band playing in your head, twenty four hours a day.  I felt warm there, for a second, someone putting into words something I had often struggled to describe. I turned to Robert and said, “I told you!”  I was glad- am glad- there are people out there with the balls to do that.

There’s another comedian who has manic depression called Kim Noble.  One of his shows is named, “Kim Noble Will Die”.  When I see that, my immediate response is, “No he won’t”.    Because I agreed with Mackenzie when he said,

‘I think that laughter can be a coping mechanism. If you can laugh about something you kind of own it. So you have control over it if you can make a joke about it.’

If not quite a confrontation, it is at least peering through the letterbox and whispering, “I see you there”.  It takes away some of its power.  It is partly what I do here.  To see it in its pathos and ridiculousness.  To laugh back.  The mundane details, the colour of your skin, the hours, the dull details of dull pills and dulled days.  You know the reality- you have told everybody and now they know too.  So how can you revisit it?   In a way, the abstraction is protection.  It can’t hurt you.  Or so I had hoped.

It isn’t fair.

I think Mackenzie was brave as all hell.  The huge outpouring of grief with this news shows how loved he was and how missed he will be by those close to him, and by those- like me- who admired him.  Here is a very lovely tribute to him from his friend and colleague at Radio Berkshire, Henry Kelly.  It’s 2 hours and 7 minutes in.

Rest in peace, fella.



I had an appointment with my GP today.  Not my usual GP, which was deliberate.  It usually takes a leg or two falling off before I submit myself to the GP, and if that was the case, it’s pretty certain the first question I’d be asked would be, “So…how’s your mood?  Have you been self harming?” while I awkwardly fiddle with the sinew dripping elastically upon the floor.

This is just being thorough.  Today was no different from the usual, but I faintly recall that I was up for a medication review anyway.  I went to see the doctor for two reasons- the first being about my arms.  I didn’t get a referral to a dermatologist, or anything of the like.  She thought there isn’t much they can do-she had a viddy, the scars are pretty widespread, and surgery might make them look worse.  I don’t know whether to pursue it or not.  The second was due to the fact I keep blacking out at the moment.  In the past week I’ve cracked my head twice due to, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…thunk”.  I also keep falling asleep.  If you know me in real life, you’ll know how unusual the latter is for me.  I have  piled on yet more weight, rather inexplicably, and my eyesight is coming and going.

So, as well as blood tests, I got a gentle bollocking for not taking my medication.  It was only two and half months ago (which I stated as six weeks, because I can’t count) I was with the crisis team, which I sometimes forget.  But I pulled myself out of that depression.  I felt horrendous, as it was a sudden, shocking, “where the fuck did that come from?” depression but doing things- forcing myself to do things- did help (as did citalopram, I guess, but who knows).   I honestly feel quite well off medication. Everyone has noticed how much brighter I am.  I don’t want to expect something to go wrong.  It helps, I guess, that something physical is probably going on that means I sleep, and sleeping enough does tend to keep my mood alright. I reassured her that I was seeing my social worker, who is okay with it.  But more to the point, she will notice if I start going weird, probably before I do. A few weeks ago she thought I was getting vaguely high, and I maybe was, but then being slammed by strange tiredness seemed to sort it out.  I’m a bit twitchy, but mentally I feel quite good.

“Anyway…”, I continued, “I have borderline personality disorder, so I don’t need medication”.  If they are going to slap me with that one, I shall exploit it to the hilt.

“No,”, she riposted, “you have bipolar disorder, so you do need to take medication”.

I told her that I’d been told in April that I have BPD, not bipolar, and shouldn’t be taking medication, to which she showed me a letter, dated August, from the psychiatrist who told me this, stating that I had bipolar disorder with, “underlying borderline personality disorder” and to issue a prescription.  But under, “active issues”- there it was, personality disorder!

Shenanigans!  Who the buggery knows.  Either way, if I’m not taking anything, it’s all a bit irrelevant.  It’ll only be relevant if I flip out and find myself on a ward, but I imagine if that happened, it would be fairly obvious what the problem is either way.

I did get the, “Have you had thoughts of suicide, self harm etc?” questions to which I answered no.  She asked me if I was in counselling or therapy and I said no to that too.  When she asked why, I said I don’t think I need it.  Which is also true.

I’m curious as to what they have on me, so I’ve booked myself in for a ball-kicking session on the 29th, in which you sit in a room with a receptionist, scroll through your notes and gasp in shock and hurt as to what’s been written about you.  I am terrified of this and am aware it’s going to be painful, but I want to know.

My social worker appointment on Wednesday was fine- more bloody forms for my funding.  We’re also back to the, “Six months and we’ll discharge you”.  So if I get through six months without any serious incident (we started this in May this year, but there were two notable mood swings so I got stuck), then I’m free!  Which will be good.

I mentioned that my view of mental illness has kind of come around to her view of it (“My hippy shit?  Ha!”).  I said I was worried about changing trusts as, “I didn’t want another Haringey”.  When she asked me to explain,  I told her they weren’t very good, but I had some responsibility in that one in that I was twenty and a dogmatic little shit who expected to be magically cured and was pissed off when I wasn’t (after the obligatory seven months rampaging around telling them to fuck off and that I didn’t have any problems).  When I did accept I have manic depression, I thought I could just take pills and be fine.  Or not take them, take them, not take them… Now I realise that it’s only a small bit of the equation, but it took a few years to get to that point, of trial and error, of sometimes painful introspection.  And it’s nice, in a way, to feel responsible for myself.  To feel grown up. What I should never forget about then is that I wasn’t grown up, I was very young, quite unwell and had no idea how to deal with that.  It’s something they- especially psychiatrists- should never forget either before putting personality disorders on my medical records that cannot be erased, despite my growing out of all the symptoms of them. (And it’s something you- younger people reading- should also remember.  You may think you are irrevocably fucked up at the moment, but you may not be in the future.  When I think back to what I was like when I was eighteen, I can’t imagine feeling like that again.  I was a mess).

I’m not even sure why I stopped taking medication.  Partly the very sudden weight gain with citalopram, despite often feeling too nauseous to eat, which freaked me out.  I ran out of my Quetiapine prescription and just didn’t pick up another one.  I missed two or three days, found that, aside from being twitchy and brain-noisey, I didn’t feel too bad, so just kept going.  It’s not an ethical thing.  If I do become ill, I will take medication again without moaning too much about it.  Without the quetiapine drowsiness, I actually find myself on time for things, which makes a pleasant change.

It will be nice to be discharged, though, even though I’ll miss my social worker.  We had a rocky start, but I have grown to like her and she’s been really supportive.  If I get onto a course for next year, I’d be discharged anyway as I’d need to move south of the river to be close to placement hospitals.  I am very very keen to stay well so if I do go weird I will take medication again.  I do not want to bugger this year up, as this is the year I want to get back to a life.  I got a reference from my tutor, and it was very lovely, and once  I send my personal statement for approval, that’s it, all sent, and I will have to wait for answers from the universities.  Eek.

I wondered briefly today why so many of my mentally interesting brethren go into mental health nursing.  Is it because we have a better grasp of the challenging facing mentalists, being so ourselves?  And is it a  bit reclaiming the power balance?  If you’ve spent years submitting yourself to services, how delicious, how ironic it is to find yourself on the other side of that locked door.  Both certainly come into it with me.  I want to help- directly,  not just through blogging and activism- people going through mental illness because I know what a painfully long and lonely experience it is.  I know mental illness can make people act out of character and that sometimes people don’t grasp that, and I know that people with mental illness are also as susceptible to being complete arseholes as people without.  But I also want to get behind the scenes and try to change things I see being done wrong, because so very much is when it comes to mental health.  I know that too from experience.

Anyway, I also managed some writing yesterday, which is good.  I have possibly been given up on, though, as it’s been almost a year now and I’m still nowhere near finished with what I was writing.  Ah, I am an arse.

Quick update! Hiya!

Hello, here I am to bore you once more with a quick, self obsessed update. My sell-out self because I actually received an email criticising me for not representing the true experience of people with mental illness because I am trying to do things and be well after ten years of instability, misery and failure! I hope you’ve all got time to read this in between rocking back and forth.

Snipped for the disinterested!

I’ve had an interesting week, which I won’t go into because I need to get OFF THE INTERNET. Things with college are moving so fast that I’m chasing dust. On Saturday we had to, “pitch” to the class, pretending it was a university interview. I had forgotten about this and wrote it an hour before I left the house, then finished it on the cigarette break. I can’t keep winging it like that, but I did well anyway. I’m good at bluffing confidence. (I must be very good at it: when I said I was nervous, my tutor expressed visible surprise, as did the girl sitting next to me!)

I’d been worried about it because I feel like I haven’t done much in my life. I spend the large majority of my time in my flat, on my own. Everybody else doing their pitch had been in jobs for years, or travelled, or had other education. Someone was doing social work and has been working in the prison service for eight years and was the head of her team. Her pitch was mad interesting. I had to rack my brains. I reeled off some random things, and I was surprised by the reaction they got. Someone even offered me a sweet! (Dolly Mixture. Excellent sweets). I mentioned i had health problems- this is the career and personal development class, where things are confidential. I didn’t say what they were but I used it as a springboard to explain why I respected nurses, why I had been unemployed for three years and had to leave my job and why I don’t have practical experience, instead doings thing like writing about disability (BBC Ouch and One in Four) and work with Rethink. I have, so far, successfully avoided mentioning that I’m unemployed and why I have no education, but I did feel it was relevant. Given what I was discussing, I think it might have been somewhat obvious my problems were mental health related but if anyone felt ill-disposed towards it, they certainly didn’t show it.

I realise I am pretty much going to have to mention my health problems somewhere along the way (to staff, for purposes of DSA and occupational health, not to students, because most nurses I have met so far are not at all tolerant of “teh mentals”), so I had better get comfortable with it. I think my, “I have never had any mental health problems, EVAR” post the other day was vaguely grandstanding- when I remember, for about three seconds, I know that’s untrue and that there have been times in my life in which I’ve been very ill. As much as I want to close my eyes to that, if I go into university with that attitude, if I become ill again, I am buggered. SEE, SENSIBLENESS! I am scared, though, that I wouldn’t even be accepted if I’m honest. But my problems have not been the most severe so who knows? In the pitch thing I said that I felt adult nursing would benefit from some people who understood the social issues facing people with disabilities and mental health problems, which people seemed to agree with.

My tutor called me a, “character”, which I took as a compliment, mainly because she said it just before I started, asking if I had holes in my dress and I explained it was because I’d torn off the lace as it was annoying me. In fairness, I did look like a tramp as none of my clothes fit me (thanks, medication). I also had water down my front; well done me and well done the taps on the second floor for only turning on when you apply Herculean force coupled with calling it a fucking bastard twat.

I talked about nursing being a privileged job, which is something I truly believe. My first experience with caring for someone was when I was nine. I looked after my granny’s neighbour, Isobel- just did little things, like tidied, did the garden, helped her wash, made food and chatted to her. I felt honoured to do that, even though she could be rather cantankerous!- and was with her until the day before she died. It’s something at the most intimate level, and I want to be involved.


I got my second essay (and my first real one) mark back, which was 72%, a first! I did a happy little jig about that- my course is a level 4 course (the equivalent of the first year of a degree, which may explain the surprisingly big workload for something that is three hours a week), so if I keep my marks up, hopefully universities will think, “Well, if she can do a first year there, she can do a first year here, let her come to us, so we may stroke her tenderly”. This also depends on my tutor giving me a good reference. I shall send her some helpful phrases- “a credit to her kin and country”, for one, “the most intelligent midget I have ever patted” for two, and maybe if I’m feeling modest, “I was an atheist until I met her”. I just hope she doesn’t include, “opinionated” and, “has had to leave two classes early” (one being due to flu, the other because I locked myself off and had to get keys from Robert before work: NOW ISN’T THAT FASCINATING).

Next up we have to do a presentation on anything relating to health, and an essay with it. I think most people in my class will be doing physical stuff. Despite the fact I’m studying adult nursing, I am doing auditory hallucinations. People with mental illness get ill, too, and hallucinations are not at all limited to mental illness, and I want to stress that in my presentation. Before I get up to do it, I’d been thinking of setting off some radio very quietly on my phone, in the knowledge that some people would hear it. Because I would be speaking and it would be rude for them to interrupt or not pay attention (and because it’s peer reviewed as well as judged by the tutor, they have to), then they would be sitting there wondering if they were hearing things, which might help prove…some point or other. But I think it might be ethically dodgy. Ah well. As well as proving (INSERT POINT HERE), it would have made me laugh.

I’m applying to university fairly soon. I like how studying something makes me feel, that I am not a loser, that I can do something. I want to go to Kings, oh so very much. I don’t know if I will get onto any course next year- it’s ferociously competitive. I wonder if my background will be a hinderance? Who knows.

Financially, I have absolutely no idea how I will cope- I barely do as it is. My funding for my course still hasn’t come through- I’m not even sure I’m getting it! Obviously, I won’t have benefits or anything then, and I’m going to have to gather my panties and get a job next year. I need to find out where I’ll be studying so I will know where I need to live. Leaving my little home behind, which saddens me. I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for work yet (stress really does make me go a little doolally. I function better under stress than most people, but tend to take on too much or get obsessive) but by next year, hopefully I will be. I desperately want to avoid being absolutely fucked on benefits. Even though I’m still under the community mental health team (four years, I had my anniversary last month), if I am transfered to the ESA, I am screwed and if I also fuck up in work, at least it’s on my own terms. Getting a job is going to be hellishly difficult, though, so I have no idea what I am going to do. I can’t work part time on a nursing course so god knows what will happen then. Sort something out, I usually do. Go on the game and hope someone wants to leave an imprint of their sweaty face in my memoryfoam buttocks.

As well as this, I’ve sent a few emails to some papers and magazines asking if they’d allow me to pitch to them, keen as I am not to abandon my first, most tempestuous love.

In summary, aside from still being behind in some things, and utter uncertainty over the next year, I am mentally feeling okay, and things are good. Hooray!

Off-topic, “Yay!”

I’d have written this on my study blog but I’ve forgotten the email address I sign in with, whoops. I thought I’d bollocksed my essay. I got 64% last time, which was good for a first assignment.  I got 72% on my second essay!  If I got that on everything, it would be a first!

(Cut for the disinterested)
Continue reading

Good CPNs/Social Workers/Doctors/Therapists

This’ll be badly written as I have about three minutes!

Reading around the madosphere, there is a lot of poor treatment out there.  The Crisis Team in particular seem to get various boots hoofed into them, which I understand.  On the occasions I’ve dealt with them, they’ve been rather useless, but it’s difficult to know what their use actually is.  My understanding of them has been that they come round to talk to you and check you’re not dead.  Which has a function in itself- if you don’t want to be admitted to hospital, the hour in which they say they’ll appear, genie-like, is the hour to aim for looking like you’ve had a wash and haven’t been neglecting to wipe your arse and drink fluids, even if you have.  They’re good for the facade, and the facade can be handy, it’s good to practice it, especially when you are depressed, so everybody doesn’t worry.  When you feel bad enough for the crisis team, though, you kind of want them to show up, take you very seriously (therefore not suggesting you have a bath or make tea) and then all is well.  But the zenith of, “taking seriously” seems to be hospital admittance, which is equally boring and often pointless anyway.  Apart from the first time I ever dealt with them when I was treated at home with them for six weeks (having them come to administer medication, and watch me take it, which was amusing), my dealings with them have been brief because I learned quickly what to say in order to get discharged.  There was one appointment that they couldn’t get to because someone had been stabbed outside my front door- they weren’t allowed in by the police.  I pointed out that it wasn’t me who did the stabbing so not to worry.

Psychiatrists get it, too.  I’ve never really had a psychiatrist I particularly liked, but it’s only because I’ve never gotten to know any of them well enough to like them, and the highly charged situations I’ve seen them in have been too fraught, and made me feel defensive.  Since psychiatrists largely exist to tell us things we don’t want to hear, it’s difficult to like them.  They’re like that friend that presents barbed criticism as helpful advice.  The first one I had was when I was sixteen, who slapped me with a mood disorder then bammed me on Carbamazepine then I never saw him again.  After that I saw someone else, but that period of time is so blurry (all I can really remember from it is that I thought I was in a computer game) that I don’t remember him.  I do remember the Olanzapine and the 3 stone I gained on it, though.   There was one, the geography-teacher elbow patched, tweed trouseredness of Dr. Issacs, who I liked, despite sometimes disagreeing with him.  My first impression of him still makes me laugh- he floated into the a side room at the hospital, stuck his hand out and said in the most cavalier fashion imaginable, “I’m Jack, Dr. Jack Issacs”. I half-expected his teeth to ping pearly white.  There was another who was so handsome that I would burrow into my chair to smother the shame of the faint, tangible smell of urine that clung to my legs, the sweetish smell of old sweat and clothes that hadn’t been washed in weeks, unkempt hair, and an increasingly bloated, antipsychotic face.  There’s Dr Lashes who I’d seen a few times and saw recently with the Crisis Team, who has such a low, calm voice that I nod off whenever he speaks to me.  Then there’s the consultant, the one who slammed me with BPD, who is quite chipper but doesn’t listen.  He is a consultant, though, so I think it’s in the job description.  My issue with him is the very dismissive way he told me, and not making another appointment to explain- this was partly my fault, though, as I was very late to that one.  Apart from in hospital and the crisis team afterwards (and possibly some periods before, the ones that I don’t remember much, the ones were doctors gave me things to, “calm me down” and they were heavy antipsychotics), I’ve almost never seen a psychiatrist in any state other than depressed, due to successfully dodging doctors and services otherwise, because, y’know, why wouldn’t you.

I haven’t had much dealings with therapy.  I had therapy when I was a teenager after my friend committed suicide, which involved me lying through my teeth for six weeks so that I didn’t have to endure the depressing journey in a social worker’s car to a hospital ward where people came to die, and teenagers lined up on plastic seats outside, self consciously fiddling with their sleeves.  I was transfixed by a growing mole on her chest.  The journey there was always horrible- the social worker clearly believed that because I was a self harming teenager, I was an attention seeker, and explicitly told my parents so, which made my life wonderful for a little while.

I was referred to group therapy just after I left hospital, but it never transpired.  I had a short burst of CBT with a student therapist, who I liked, and who, despite cutting the sessions short because I had slipped into depression and couldn’t engage, did help me.  The therapy was for body dysmorphic disorder, and I did learn some little things that I still use now, and still find helpful.  The going out without make up thing, even just to appointments now and then, helped, and I started increasingly the times I did that, and nothing awful happened, and now I do it fairly regularly.  I’ll always wear heavy clothing and a hat (for people who have met me and been puzzled by how much I overdress, that is why), but it’s still something, and I don’t stay indoors so much now because of it all.  The problems weren’t so much the way I felt about my looks- I’ll never think I am beautiful- but the way I dealt with it, the anxiety.  And CBT did help.

Then there was psychotherapy assessments with Marigold, who, unbeknownst to me, had been assessing me for therapy for borderline personality disorder, at least, I think she did, given some of the things she asked.   In retrospect, I now understand why she said things like, “So, you write to cover up your emptiness”, which gave birth to the world’s longest silence as I had absolutely no idea what she meant, because I’d never mentioned feeling empty, and don’t.  I answered, “Er, no”, and left it there.  She said I must react extremely to normal events, and when I pressed her for what she meant (for I was confused, as it is not true, and I thought she must be referring to life events, like my dad dying and the abortion), I didn’t know what to say.  I was upset by the implication that my reaction to the abortion (grief, sadness) was, “abnormal”, but I think I had misunderstood.  I had wanted the therapy to deal with social anxiety because I’d started throwing up and shaking when I was faced with social interaction.  The PD I thought I had been hit with was avoidant personality disorder, which is one I would wholeheartedly agree with, and it’s on my rap sheet, somewhere.  It’s why BPD confused me, the whole, “problems with relationships” thing, as it has been purely social and a lot of my self esteem is tied up with how crap I feel I am in these situations and at talking to people.  But by the time the assessments were coming to a close, I’d started just biting the bullet and was feeling more in control of my anxiety on my own, and wanted to see if I could keep that up.   We both agreed we didn’t really need to continue, and it was the best decision.  We didn’t get on- she is an icicle with a flower’s name (and someone who I referred to as having all the warmth of a mass grave)- but she was gracious and helpful in our last session.  Unless something happens, or I’m forced to (which is unlikely), I think that will be my last involvement with therapy.

Then there’s the social workers and CPNs.  The first one was a waste of time.  One of the crisis team social workers (who I liked a lot, she smoked frantically out the car window when she drove me to St. Ann’s) after hospital fought for me to get a CPN as the plan then had leave me on Lithium and other random drugs while I vomited, shook and still jumped around like a mad person.  I did, and she took notes for fifteen minutes a month, and that was that.  In a fairly bad state (as I was for the year and bit after hospital) I rang her up and angrily asked her what we were supposed to be doing, as the two buses I took to our appointments were expensive, and there was no point going there.  I regret some of my behaviour with her, not least me booting the door of one of the offices during the short period on Paroxetine which kicked me into a very angry mood episode where I was raging constantly and agitated to fuck.   She encouraged me to work, despite the fact I was clearly too unwell to, and had gotten a letter from my GP who had written to her on the sly telling her to help me get benefits because I shouldn’t be working.  So, that was Haringey, which is vaguely legendary for its bad social care.  A lot of Haringey was a bit of a mess.

When I moved borough, the quality of the care I got changed.  I got a great CPN, who was incredibly helpful from the off, especially with the practical things, which is largely what I needed help with at the time.  When she left, I got a social worker who I initially didn’t get on with due to her giving me a leaflet on, “good sunshine” on our first meeting.  But as time went on I warmed to her more and more, and now I like her immensely.  She’s supportive, she’s funny and she doesn’t mollycoddle me when I’m being a dick.  I appreciate that from people in general.   I think they assign me the Slightly Alternative Ones due to my clompy shoe feet and my youth when I entered mental health services.  And I’m grateful for that because it was comforting and calming to talk about PJ Harvey with my old CPN as an anchor, and sometimes I see my social worker bombing about on her bike in her boots and it makes me smile.

I have been luckier than most with my care,  I think.  I’ve had some bad experiences, but the good ones, in the past few years, have compensated. I’ve always had a fair amount of support when I’ve asked for it, and especially support when it comes to the practical things, which are the first to fall by the wayside with me.  I would most likely be homeless now if it weren’t for them, as they’ve advocated for me, and fought for me.  One of the most stabilising influences I’ve had in my life is having a home- just somewhere to be, that I can’t bugger up and lose (I make sure I pay rent as soon as I get it in case I do get a funny upswing and think it’s a good idea to buy a thousand cups).  They sorted out my freedom pass, which is probably the single thing that I couldn’t live without, as I wouldn’t be able to afford to leave the house otherwise.  I’ve never really minded when phone calls or emails go unanswered because I know they’re fairly busy, and if it were urgent enough I’d just go down there anyway.  I am not the type of person who asks for help anyway, but when I have, they have tried.  I like the receptionist as well, who I remember humouring me during the summer when I was apparently a bit high and trying to demonstrate to everybody there that the disabled handrail (which I had never noticed) was very fun to tumble on.  My first CPN in Islington even wrote to my family to explain my diagnosis because I was having a hard time accepting it and didn’t know how to explain it to them. I appreciated that a lot.  I also appreciated them checking that the people I was with (Rob and Robert, respectively) were okay and coping, too.  They also gave me the guided tour of the crisis centre (and we were supposed to go to the hospital, but I missed the appointment), so I would know what to expect if I was admitted, and I appreciated that, too.  The run of two excellent professionals is partly why I have wanted to get into this profession; I’ve seen first hand the impact that someone being good at their job can have on a person’s life.

I’ve asked to be discharged twice within the past six months and been miffed when they won’t- the rule was, “six months off medication, if nothing happens, cheerio!” and stuff happened.  If we’re talking good treatment, I didn’t get any psychiatric appointments during that time when I probably should have, but hey ho/  But they did honour my requests not to go to the building anymore (now we meet near my house for tea), and I have fewer appointments now, except for during the summer when I was being rang a lot, as was Robert, to be checked on, and in September with the crisis team.

Most of my bad experiences have been with shite GPs.  I still hate going to see one and put it off as long as possible, or just visit a walk-in centre.

So, in conclusion- I think since the age of about 22 I’ve had quite good care with helpful staff.  There are obviously good and bad working in the system- so tell tales of horror and heroics!

A Plan, B Plan, C Plan and D Plan

Hello!  How was bonfire night?  I went to the spectacular, somewhat frightening celebrations in Lewes.  There, I discovered an England I thought was fictional, a town inexplicably governed by the Lib Dems when it looks like a model of a Tory paradise, and a populace that still does blackface, possibly to make up for the fact they only have about one or two black people living there.  This is something that now, living in somewhere as multicultural as London, makes me feel as though I am an alien.  Even going home to Belfast and seeing nothing but white faces on the bus gives me a sense of discomfort.  I also experienced that not-unfamilar unease at being Catholic. Behold!

Burn the Catholic!







The woman in the centre background is a ghost.






Last week: essay writing.  Go me for picking the stupidly fucking complex social issue to write about, and not something easier.   It was due on Thursday, I am just finishing it due to completely overwhelming myself with reading.

I wish I had done the friggin’ two year course instead of the one.  I couldn’t get the funding.  Most people on my course are doing two years, with more time to decide what degree to do, or have already done a degree and need the extra qualifications.  I feel like I have a Poké ball in my hand with no clue what’s going to pwing its way out until I chuck it at a monster.  And I’ve also lost the ability to make coherent similes.  Which leads me to:

This week: Actual writing, that is, the book and some general article ideas.  I have absolutely neglected my book since starting this course as it has kept me terrifyingly busy.  Part of me feels that I have given up on writing, acknowledged, somewhere, I am not talented enough, nor brave enough, to, er- “get out there”.  I’m not a professional and because I don’t pitch myself (people often come to me, continue doing that people, I am fragrant and sexy and enthuasiastic) because I don’t know how, I also have no fecking clue what the actual culture and etiquette is. I never imagined myself as anything but a writer, but hey, ho, a day job beckons.  Still, I’ll keep doing it and hope people continue to be patient with me.  I’m still trying to gather my brain and my knickers.

THE BOOK, intone it loudly, is also proving problematic because I am increasingly convinced that manic depression was a misdiagnosis and therefore me writing about Mentalism will get me done under the Trades Descriptions Act.  I don’t think I have manic depression.  (I know that may seem weird as in the past six months, I’ve had two of my most marked mood swings of the past two years- one quite long episode of high mood followed by a severe, sharp turn in low mood.  But I’m still unsure, because I keep thinking, shouldn’t I be worse than this?)

People are also not interested in, “I dunno”.  I don’t think I have borderline personality disorder either- I came squarely under “traits” that resolved themselves as I got older.  There is the whole “labelling” argument, but if I’m asked to write about mental health, it’s somewhat important as it is the framework through which things are understood, and through which treatment is given. Because of my own uncertainty about my mental health, I have no idea if I will be okay or if I will get ill again. Diagnosis=prognosis.

I am also uncomfortable with writing about my relationships. The one I was in for most of the duration of this blog and the years before is someone I am no longer with.  Aside from the fact it feels rude to write about him, he has moved on to the extent that he’s having his first child soon, and I have moved on to the extent where I am considering my future in terms of me, Robert and our hypothetical family. It feels a bit strange to try and claw him back into my history, when it is something he may rightly feel liberated from. We broke up eighteen months ago and writing about it keeps me unhealthily tethered and reflective.

It’s also almost pleasure-less to write about yourself constantly- yeah, I know I do it anyway- and also wearying to write so much about mental health, when I am better when my head is not jammed up my arse.

So I’ve gone back to the drawing board and am amusing myself with the ideas of writing about identity.  Over the years with this blog, a radio play, interviews and my beautiful medical notes, I have seen, and portrayed, such a convulted idea of myself that there are representations of me out there that I don’t even recognise.  I think this is true of everybody; who the self is, the filters through which we are seen.  With mental illness, it’s particularly resonant, because- first off, we are defined through various systems by a diagnosis in a way that someone with a physical illness is not.  We’re the same person through each diagnosis- I think most of us have been through more than one- and yet, to a different medical professional, even to a different sort of person- we are someone else.  When I was told I had BPD rather than bipolar by one psychiatrist, something which I have been consistently told to disregard (aye right, I am incapable of disregarding something like that, for a start, I’m too much of a psychology spod), it has made me think deeply about identity. (Oh yes, it’s one of those posts.  Come, let me guide you on a journey up my arsehole…)

A core feature of borderline personality disorder is identity disturbance- and I didn’t have one until the diagnosis!  I had “identified” in some way as someone with manic depression- to have that identity dismissed was wounding, but it made me think.  It is embarrassing to admit it but since then I have felt like I don’t “fit” anywhere- there is, regrettably, a hierarchy in the “mental health community”, with a lot of manic depressive people tending to be protective of their diagnosis- partly, I think, because of the shit you usually have to go through to get help for it, like with any mental illness.  Although I have never particularly considered myself part of a community, it was always good to know it existed, but now, I feel I would be told to  bugger off.  Likewise, I don’t really identify with a lot of BPD communities- I did when I was a teenager (and indeed, my first forays on the ‘net were to self harm communities), so I don’t really know who to talk to about any of this, which is why I spew it here.  It’s all very silly but it’s the nature of any community, they’re a bit tribal.  The mental health bloggers are less so- but that said, we all do have our diagnosis in our side bars and about pages.  We still identify as one camp or another.  And that is natural, and human.

I had often questioned and written about the difference between episodic behaviour and personality- the disentangling of yourself in episodes of illness, and yourself in normality.  In a sense, a distinction lets you off the hook, something I am uncomfortable with, but was secretly grateful for, which was another reason I was, “Argh!” by, “Oh, hang on, it’s actually you, ya knobber”. I don’t think that’s the way it works, but they do!  In a way, I needed the distinction, because before I had it, I took my more mad behaviour totally on my own head, and the guilt was corrosive.  When I started to feel more sane, I was flattened by shame, it was almost unbearable.  My depressive episodes were largely fuelled by this, crushing, smothering guilt.  I wanted to run and hide, or bury myself and hide- just hide-with, “I’m sorry” being the only thing I could mutter.  But even when I’m depressed, I’m a knobber, because I retreat, and it makes it worse.

I was told, over and over again, “This isn’t your fault- you weren’t well, you aren’t well, you are trying”.  I still feel that way, and more so since that appointment- it made me think in good ways, to move away from the rigidity of it all, and the warm knowledge that I have come further than I thought- that I may still have trouble with my moods, my energy and all that jazz, but so many other things are so much better, that when I’m not being sneaked up on by depression, I am happy, and here I am, an adult, twenty five, still alive.  But also in bad ways, in that I couldn’t help but examine my past, and want to chew my fist off in embarrassment and guilt, for the things I have lost, the things I put people who loved me through and enduring the treatment for something I probably don’t have, which in itself took a stupid toll on me and my life, and watching me try and fail to be normal and live normally over and over again.

In that sense, too, it is interesting if you have an episodic illness- people may get a completely different picture of who you are depending on when they meet you.  Most people who have met me in certain periods would say I was very loud, extremely talkative, hard-to-follow, self-obsessed, aggressive, hyperactive,  sociable- irritating, even, verging on grandiose, but fun.  Vivid and bright and mercurial.  I seek out people and experiences.  This is me being complimentary- the irritating thing is writ large, as is “rude and indiscreet”.  I have made friends this way- I have lost many, too.  People who know me better, over a longer period of time, would associate me with shyness and reticence, as my “natural”, and somewhat depressive disposition is towards isolation, solitary things and quietness.   When I am depressed I am very antisocial so most people never see me in that state.  I think of myself more in the latter sense, because I recognise- or, at least, thought I did!, ah- that one side is a vaguely unnatural state for me.  I know when I am cheerful and comfortable with people, I’m chatty and animated, but generally, I am quiet and introverted.

Again, this is true for everyone- there’s no such thing as an introvert or extrovert, it’s dependent entirely on the circumstances.  It interests me, and it’s one of the reasons I often prefer visiting people in their homes rather than in a social situation, because I am Harriet the Spy- I want to see your knicker drawer, I want to flick your dust from my knees. Continue reading

Nursing and volunteering

Edit:  Thank you!

I didn’t go to my appointment today due to being out and about at 10am, having gotten the time wrong.  Shall reschedule.   The fact that I’ve had Seroquel withdrawal itching is also a bit fumpf- I look like I’ve been scratching at my arms, rather than just scratching my arms because they’re so fecking itchy!  I also haven’t picked up my prescriptions and don’t intend to.  I don’t need it, as aside from a shit concentration span, I’m okay.  And it’s not just my opinion that I don’t need them, it’s psychiatric opinion, so no-one is going to make me pick it up. I was supposed to have a medication review and am pretty sure I’d have been pulled off anyway.  I’m using Nytol to get sleep,  but the effect is that it’s mostly helping me stop itching moreso than making me sleep.

My college have an agreement with City University that Birkbeck students get preference so this is all moving far faster than I thought it would.  I’m applying to Brighton and Belfast too, at this point, I’m quite happy to wave goodbye to London.

This is a, “Help!” post. I need to get some volunteer experience but I have absolutely no idea where to start.  I had thought about approaching MIND but if I’m going in the more general direction it might not be appropriate.  I’m emailing the London hospitals, too.  I also can’t afford to get home this Christmas and spend it with my family, so instead of going down to Robert’s parents- which will be nice, I know- I’m thinking of volunteering at a shelter so waiting for Crisis’ applications to open.  If I’m going to be in London, I’d rather spend Christmas Day trying to cheer people up a bit.  I think they take people on for the week before, too, so if I can do that, I will.

At Christmas, the St. Vincent de Paul charity truck used to come round our street and give out toys that had been donated.  I had a lot of massive headed dolls at Christmas.  It was quite exciting.

Does anyone with experience of this stuff have any tips?  Would be muchly appreciated.

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