BDD suck my balls


I consider myself pretty cool in terms of body dysmorphic disorder. I had therapy, it helped, I kept those strategies with me. I understand my fears are irrational. I hate the way I look. I think I will always hate the way I look. But I can get through days without thinking I am a deformed goblin, and I can go out without make-up now and spend less than 3 hours a day putting on make up. I can leave the house and mostly look at myself without wanting to break down, and I have a mirror in my house that’s bigger than a hand mirror. Two in fact. I may not look into them much, but they’re still there, which was a thought intolerable to me in the past. I couldn’t be in the same room as a mirror without panicking. All good.

But being in a new environment, with new people, in a frankly bizarre situation (for me) on placement is making some things flare up again. My little tics are returning. I find myself touching my nose an awful lot. I have really good insight into my behaviours so I understand the touching thing is an anxiety reaction. I have a thing about my big, hideous, misshapen, gonky nose so I tend to try and cover it with my hand if someone is looking at me or speaking to me. I hate my hair too so wear hats, which I’ve started to keep on in the office (not entirely appropriate). The coats are staying on longer, too. The plus side is, it’s cold. But I know it doesn’t look professional to keep a big coat on. But I don’t want to take it off and have people see me. I’ve started taking my make up in (one of my, “homework” tasks when I did therapy was to come to it without make up on, so I try not to take my make up bag out with me as I know I’ll end up getting obsessed by it). So far I haven’t used it and I need to leave it at home.

I’m avoiding mirrors again too because when I look into them my face seems to swell and I can’t cope with the fact I look like this. It frightens and disgusts me that I walk around looking like I do. I’m getting to placement but socially, I’m beginning to withdraw again. I just do not want to be seen. It’s something I’ve discussed here at length before. I do have problems with sociability, ones which nobody who met me would foresee as I come across as being extremely confident and outgoing. As soon as I’m out of a situation where I need to be (work, university), I pretty much sprint back to my nice, safe, anonymous flat. I don’t really have a social life and part of it (though certainly not all of it) is due to worrying about what I look like and being laughed at.

I’ve joined a gym because I want to get healthy this year and lose weight before my wedding but the thought of going there, with other people who are good looking or slim while I am there lumpen and ugly is causing me so much panic that I can’t face it right now. I know I annoy Robert with my excuses; I declare I’m going to go to the gym, join a slimming club, lose weight, get healthy! and then don’t do any of it. It looks like weak-willedness, but I’m not entirely a weak willed person. It’s the people that freak me out.

The thought of having my photo taken on my wedding day is making me feel sick. I’m okay with photos as long as I take them, I can choose them, edit them etc. I hate other people taking my photo and thankfully most people who know me know that and avoid it. I’ve also put on loads of weight and my clothes don’t fit. I can’t afford to replace them (especially not now as I’m paying for a wedding) and it’s making me feel even worse.

I know this is an anxiety thing. I know it’s facile bollocks. I can rationalise it easily and understand it, but I don’t know how to control it. I keep telling myself, “You’re anxious, it’s fine, this is new. All that you’re doing is trying to displace this anxiety from something real and present and out of your hands into something that you can control”. But it’s easier said than done.

But the image anxiety, I am hopeful it will pass, but I don’t like feeling like this.

Bollocks to it anyway.

I wish my dad was coming to my wedding.

I remember the first time I realised my dad wouldn’t walk me down the aisle. I was around 20. I can’t remember the date, the month, but I clearly remember that I was sitting on a bus, in the evening, leaning against the window with my fingers covering my eyes (the sunlight must have been weaving in and out of them, so it must have been summer). A woman got on, and held onto the pole, stared ahead, in that way you do. Something about her made me look. She reminded me of the girl in a Cancer Research advert at the time, one which was being broadcast with the wild abandon of supermarket commercials, between soaps, between documentaries, between seconds and minutes of days and weeks, and was unforgettable, and inescapable. And I had tried to escape it.

The girl in the advert was in her wedding dress. She looked every bit the cake-topper in her ordinary bedroom, in the oval of the mirror, with a painfully empty reflection behind her. She had tears running down her face, and she said, “My mum should be here”.

The advert, up until then, had annoyed me in the way that all cancer-saturation annoys me. I know that cancer is a horrific illness (my fiancé’s grandfather died of it on Boxing Day, the day we got engaged), I know the pain and despair it causes, I know it is awful and I know I am terrified of it, too. I know this because it is everywhere. Money is pumped into cancer charities, and cancer is the illness of bravery, of determination, of halo-dom. Automatic sainthood bestows upon the cancer patient, which, I believed, saccharined the reality of a terrible, destructive illness. All people who are ill are brave, because it requires bravery to live through any awful experience, through anything, really, through life. Whether in tears of laughter.

In my bleak little cocoon of grief (what is it like outside? I still don’t know), I felt resentment that people like me were not represented in these adverts. Or anywhere. No brave adverts for alcoholism and drug addiction, for mental illness, for the less glamourous, not-so-“blameless” (how horrible a concept) battles that steal our loved ones every day and which leave the children, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and friends silent under the weight of shame, of blame themselves (“couldn’t you stop him drinking? Put him into a hospital or something? Five children and it’s still not enough? What kind of children are you?”). The well-known by now turn-away of the face, the lowering of the gaze, not of death, but of a socially unacceptable death. One that does not proffer forth, “Ah, how brave they were! How wonderful. So much a life lived, and now the suffering is ended. They fought a battle”, but a defence, a, “But he was good. He was. I know he was. I remember it. Inside, he was good. He wasn’t himself- it wasn’t his fault”. The scrabbling for old memories, good ones. From childhood, maybe, or a glimpse, one day, in between drinks, of who he was, who you loved, who you would miss so desperately even when you hated them sometimes, and even when they so clearly hated you sometimes to, and even when you both said as much. And cancer patients are alcoholics too, have wasted, desperate lives, and die young. There is no sainthood, everyone is the same, everyone is human. A kind of death doesn’t make a kind of life. But so it is for the alcoholic, the drug addict, the mentally ill. Because they were so, then they must have been so.

And moreso than silent, invisible. I wanted, so desperately, to see someone represent my experience. To do it publicly. Please, please don’t let me be alone. I want to talk. I want someone to say something about what is happening to people and to the people left behind (My wonderful friend Brendan, who battled alcohol addiction too, died the year after my dad. He was the person who understood the most and I had wanted to shock him with my grief- it never works, it didn’t work with my dad, either. He saw people in his group die, and then he did anyway). It is why I wanted to write a book- not just one about mental illness (of which I have little to say about my own anymore) but about the experience of growing up with an alcoholic, with another who was mentally ill (It was like having half a parent most of the time. They ebbed and flowed, sometimes, one could be capable, one not, and vice versa. Sometimes they both were, and those were the best of times). Two parents who you love but who are flawed so deeply, but you love. Of not being a Jeremy Kyle caricature nor a placid professorly drinker, of being taught to read by someone who had misspelling on their gravestone, all too soon.

So this woman on the bus, her face like the advert girl. And I thought about it, her standing in front of the lonely mirror, and realised that my experience is there. It is there because I, my siblings and millions of people have lost a parent- forever and ever- and lost the futures we had in our hearts for ourselves, and for them. I had always imagined my dad walking me down the aisle (and probably getting drunk and ruining my wedding, but at least being by my side, genuinely proud and composed, for a few minutes. Like the childhood memories of making Toasted Toppers, it would be worth it for the rapidly fading memory of his true self), I had imagined smiling at him and getting one of my decade-kisses (only 3 times, not out of lack of love, but he was not that kind of man, he was shy) and then being released by him.

It struck me with shuddering, sickening force that it wouldn’t happen. It would never happen, it was gone, gone and could never be taken back. I had a new future and it was one without my dad. Without my children having him as a grandad, without my future husband meeting him (he did, when he was 18, and my dad baldly asked him, “Do you love her?”, to which my future husband replied, “Yes”), without arguments, without tense Christmasses, without shouting, without anything at all. He was gone. Was he even my dad anymore? Do they exist as parents, if they are dead? When they are 47 and I have friends older than that, who are alive?

I wanted to be sick. I shoved my head against the window and let tears roll down my face, too immobilised by shock and grief to even move, to get off the bus, to spare myself the embarrassment. When I finally did it was with fingers clenched in and drenched. I walked, I don’t even remember where- nowhere dramatic, probably home- trying to push the thought out of my mind, as I had done so many times before. But it wouldn’t go, it kept floating back, the awful reality of what had happened, that I had to accept and couldn’t bear to.

And now it is almost six years later. I’m getting married in August without my dad. Hopefully my mum will come, hopefully Robert’s dad will come, too. My little brother is giving me away. We’re having alcohol and I wonder if that’s like putting out lines of coke for the drug addict funeral. Should I raise a toast to my dad? Is that like saluting the Grim Reaper with a scythe?

But I know alcohol didn’t kill my dad, and that alcoholism did.

My dad should be here.

Project Medication Free

Ah, Quetiapine. We have a long history.

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The Spartacus Report into DLA reform, written, funded, researched by people with disablities. PLEASE READ IT!

If you read or do or tweet or talk about one thing today, please read, tweet and talk about the Spartacus Report. I will let the absolutely inspirational Diary of a Benefit Scrounger explain:

A report published today (9 January) finds that Government misled MPs and Peers over the hostility to disability benefit reform. It finds that Parliament has been given only a partial view of the overwhelming opposition to the Coalition’s planned reforms of a key disability benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It finds that this opposition was previously not released to public scrutiny by the Government.

It is based on the responses to the government’s own consultation on its planned DLA reforms, which were only made public once disabled people requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. Findings included:

* 98 per cent of respondents objected to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from 3 months to 6 months

* 99 per cent of respondents objected to Disability Living Allowance no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits

* 92% opposed removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people

Among the report’s conclusions:

* Only 7% of organisations that took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP

* There was overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government’s proposals for DLA reform

* The government has consistently used inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants

* The report shows that nearly all of the recent increase in working-age claimants of DLA has been associated with mental health conditions and learning difficulties. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of working-age DLA claimants – excluding those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties remained remarkably stable

* 98% of those who responded opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months

* 90% opposed plans for a new assessment, which disabled people fear will be far too similar to the much-criticised work capability assessment used to test eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)

* Respondents to the consultation repeatedly warned that the government’s plans could breach the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Read it here:

Spartacus Report

I’m not going to say much more. I think the changes to DLA are amongst the worst sleight of hand the government has performed. There is a twisted justification in going after ESA as it can be explained away with, “fraud! malingering! dependency!” DLA cannot. It has a minuscule fraud rate, it is not an out-of-work benefit and personally, my life would be totally different without it (I would not have gotten funding for my course. I would not have had somewhere safe to live). Please read, retweet and resist reform of Disability Living Allowance.

Wedding distress signal!

This is a plea for help!

On my complete lack of salary being a student nurse, I cannot afford a big wedding and my brain is exploding with the organising already.

A registry office is fine for the ceremony but we need help with a reception! Our only thing is that we really want a first dance and to be able to provide scraps of food for people we have forced to shuffle around a registry office in late August.

If anyone has any contacts I could use in London, or any ideas of doing this on a budget, please speak up! If any companies are reading I would be happy to tongue bathe you in blogs in return for help!

If I’m being beggarly (is that a word? It is now) it’s because we don’t want to be engaged forever and unfortunately the only thing Robert is good at organising is a fake Mayoral campaign.

Thank you!


2011- that was the year that was

2011 was a good year for me. It was the only year in my adult life where I haven’t had some sort of mental health crisis. I even got past the dreaded October. October seems to throw me into storms, unreasonable storms that appear from nowhere. But not this year. I did spend a lot of this year waiting to get really ill. Or nearly making myself so by going over the past for no real reason other than that’s what my brain tends to do! But I think I’ve kicked that, too. I’m quite excited about the future.

It wasn’t perfect. January was sent from hell, but the year improved as time went on. When I did get stressed or depressed, it was for entirely understandable reasons. It was quite a busy year! For example…

1) I was discharged from the community mental health team after 4 years

2) I came off benefits, after four years

3) I finished my course at Birkbeck, which made me feel like a Real Person again

4) I got my first job in 4 years

5) I started university

6) I got engaged to my very first love, and my very last.

7) I didn’t write a book. And my lovely agent has (quite understandably) stopped replying to my emails, so it may not happen. But, as the above testifies to, 2011 was the year of getting my life together, rather than staring at my naval. I found it incredibly painful to even try- maybe this year, if I can find another agent!

8) I’ve been quite quiet this year. Undoubtedly lost my position as one of the more vocal mental health bloggers. But I had forgotten that I actually DID STUFF. I still did write a fair amount, did some performing, did things with Rethink and got involved in activism and was on radio.

In 2012, I hope to do more writing, more work with charities, more STUFF, not fail my placements, be more sociable and get married. Hooray!

So, that was 2011. How was it for you?

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