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.

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Robert promptly fell asleep when we got back.

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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.

AYE YOUR MA

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,

‚ÄėI 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.‚Äô

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.

Shenanigans

Hiya!

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.

ANYWAY!

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)
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