I’m getting married today!

HOLY SHIT.

It’s 3.17am and it’s in 12 hours.  I need to wake up early.  I also need to take Seroquel or else I won’t sleep at all and will start scratching from withdrawal.  I hope I don’t sleepwalk through the day.  I hope I wake up and the nightmares I have about not making it (and of Julian Assange living in my dad’s bedroom and talking to my dog) don’t come to fruition.

I am about to have my (yearly) bath.

I have accidentally dyed my neck red.

My family are all in the bedroom and have spent the day gracefully dealing with me being a stressed arsehold and I am on my 25th cigarette.

But this time tomorrow, I will be married to the love of my life, in a lovely hotel room and probably pished as fuck.

ARGH.

But I want to say, now, when I am not pished, when I am nervous but not stressed….

THANK YOU!

for your support, encouragement in my recovery, loveliness, your stories, for reading and for sharing, for putting up with my wanky wedding posts (on here and on Facebook) and, through this blog, actual friendships (there are 48 people coming to our small wedding, which includes both of our families, and four of them are people I have met through this blog) and actual practical help when I have needed it, even when I haven’t asked for it.

I feel like I’m entering a new era.  A married era.  What will change? I have no idea, but I never thought I’d get far enough to find out.  To be happy and stable and comfortable enough to confidently accept love, to confidently give it.

But this is not the end.  I will continue living with this, probably for quite a long time, but I feel I can handle it.  And so does he, clearly.

Bloody hell.

Here we go!

Busy fortnight

3 days until my family arrive from Belfast and have to use a bucket to flush the toilet as it has now fecked itself.

4 days until we get married and I am a Ms (I’ve always been a Ms, I will be a Ms with an extra  surname, and a husband).  Tomorrow I’m meeting my friend David for the first time!  We have been online friends for 9 years and he’s coming from Baltimore for the wedding.  Hooray!

A room full of people we love and think are awesome. This is excellent.

6 days until we bugger off to Rome on our honeymoon!

8 days until I turn 27 in Rome!

14 days until I return to university for year 2 of my nursing degree.  (I passed year one with a first, which was incredibly difficult so I fully expect year 2 to kill me).

26 days until our party in Belfast with my Belfast people and my granny!

I am glad I have spent the summer asleep and watching shite TV.  I actually wanted to lose 3 stone, write a book and get off medication.  But it was so very neccessary after the physical and emotional exhaustion of being on placement.  But I did miss my 5am starts, oddly.  I don’t think I’ll have the same sentimental glow about them come this winter when I will still have 5am starts, but instead of bombing down the road in the bus into the sunrise, it will be groping in the dark for the alarm clock then exhorting it to go fuck itself.

A lot has changed in a year.

ARRRRRRGH! Excited!

Body dysmorphic disorder and, oh shit, a whole day of people taking your photo

The last time I wrote about BDD I got slammed for writing something so, “self regarding”.  Well, sadly for you, BDD is also a mental disorder. So suck it.

I was determined not to let my body image shit ruin my wedding. Not to diet. Not to fuss.  Not to fall back into an eating disorder.  I did on count 3 (largely because of count 1) , which I trying to get a stranglehold of. It is not something I want to discuss here- suffice to say, I am as fat as always, but with chipmunk cheeks added.  I confessed all to Robert, I have a friend who is contacting me every night to see how I am doing, and it is helping (I am still considering asking the CMHT for a therapy referral.  As the below illustrates, I’m sort of there, but I need a bit more help).

I know all brides (awful term) worry about what they will look like on their, “big day” (another awful term). I am not worried so much about what I will look like (shit, as always), but the actual exercise of people taking photos of me, looking at me, it being there forever, and having nothing to hide behind.  It is my worst fear. I can deal with some very carefully selected photos of myself but I still read my BBC Ouch columns on my phone with images disabled. In a way, it’s the thing that makes me miss hypo/mania the most.  “LOOK AT ME!” which, in my normal, non-manic life, I hate.  It was liberating, in a way, not to care.

I can handle being ugly in private.  It’s what I exist as, humdrum and ugly.  There you go, no harm done. Being ugly in public is what I needed therapy to deal with.  And in some ways, the therapy was successful.  I do accept now I have body dysmorphic disorder, which, although I had been diagnosed with, I had denied because I was, “that” ugly. What I have not intellectually nor otherwise accepted is that I am not, “that ugly”.  What I have accepted is that, for a long time, my behaviours surrounding that ugliness were disproportionate. Of course nobody is going to brick me in the street for being ugly (they will just call me a, “fat freak”, but hey, welcome to being a woman).  Of course my ugliness is not tied to my self-worth- I would be as worthy if I were beautiful.  That was my biggest victory and what helped me to, finally, accept love. Accept compliments, quietly and unquestionably, even if they have sadly little impact on my self perception.  Which is an incredible shame, because it is not just Robert who has treated me so beautifully.  I have always had partners and lived with men who were gentle, loving, complimentary and adoring and who did not put me down and treated me as an equal.  If I listened (how I wish I could listen to their real, real voices, and not the one in my head which is catcalling me, “your nose is too fat.  Your face is bloated.  Your nose nose nose nose nose, break your nose, get a new nose) I would have high self esteem.  I have grown so much in the past year, in so many ways.  Learned to listen, to accept criticism, learned to reflect more, learned to be more open, learned to be more healthy. To be aghast of the violence I used to direct towards myself, and, occasionally, others.

There is improvement- I don’t think, beyond my feelings about my appearance, I would meet the criteria for BDD anymore. Therapy was incredibly valuable in helping me to understand my anxious behaviours.  The smashed mirrors (in public places, bathrooms, that kind of thing, I would never allow one into my home then) and the thought processes leading to them.  That if you looked closely at anything (nose nose nose) you will find flaws.  I also used to see my face swell and utterly panic- I only recently understand that was a side effect of bulimia.  My face WAS swollen, and not delusionally, but also not naturally.  And it receded and ebbed and flowed. I don’t, for the most part, link my loveability to my appearance.  When in the past I feared to leave the house in case people laughed at me for what I looked like, and hated me for it.  That is an awful lot better. I don’t (often) look at myself in a mirror and want to die because of what I see, not being able to envisage a life in which I can live in this body.  I can leave the house now.  I don’t carry make up in my bag constantly, I don’t spend hours and hours applying it, rubbing it off in furious tears, then reapplying.  It takes 10 minutes, I’m out of there. Not satisfied, but so mindful, always mindful, of the terrible impact it had on my life for so long.

This, in a way, is the final frontier, the absolute last horror I can face in terms of living and somewhat recovering from body dysmorphic disorder.  It’s your wedding day.  You get photos taken of you, that’s what you do.  And it’s what I want- I want tons, hundreds, thousands of photos on the day as I have a terrible memory, and I don’t want to forget any of it.  I take a lot of photos myself so I remember.  I want to remember, I want to be remembered and have something to send to my granny, something to frame.

Part of me seethes, “How COULD you get married looking like this?!” in the same voice that used to scream, “How can you LIVE looking like this?”  And I try to ignore it, because I know it doesn’t really matter. I want to ignore it, I am going to do my best to ignore it.  And I am also doing all the things that make me feel nice- having my hair my “natural colour” (dyed bright red, my happiest colour), wearing something fitted, nice eyeliner.  I still have the socially-phobic me in there but IT IS MY WEDDING. I will deal with people. I will enjoy people.  I have no choice this time- I can’t turn on my heel and, “pretend” I went out when what I did was sit in a falafel place on my own, texting I had a great time and wasn’t at all too scared to go and speak to people.

It’s difficult to explain to Robert. He worries I won’t enjoy it, and this is partly why.  He does not understand the force of my feelings, which I get, because he thinks I am beautiful (and I believe he thinks it- how far I have come there!), so I wouldn’t want him to understand.  I have put on 2 stone since we met (happiness, recovering from an eating disorder, medication) and he said today I am lovelier than when we met, which is reassuring.  Hopefully the bloom of childbirth, ageing, ripening hips and EVEN BIGGER boobs will make me lovelier still to him.  I never worry what he thinks of my appearance, I cannot name the worry, or the who, I guess. It is me, I don’t want to look at photos and be frozen in this body and face when I still, doomedly, hold the belief, “It will change for the better.  One day, you will be beautiful”.

I hope happiness makes me, if not beautiful, then lovely.  Because I am very happy. I used to try and dissociate myself from my body back in the day, to say, “It does not matter what you look like, because you are you regardless”.  It made it easier to cope with living in it.  Now I try to be aware of it. “Yes, you are fat, but it is protecting you.  You have a funny nose, but it looks like your dad’s.  You would be so sad to look into a mirror and not recognise your father”. It works to an extent.

I am determined not to care. To pose and be happy.  To duckface with the best of them.  It is my wedding day, my one and (hopefully) only.  Mental illness has stolen so much from me.  Not this. This is mine.

1 week and 5 days to go. Wish me luck.

What Has Been Happening: Weddings, police officers and nothing

Hello!

It’s been a while, sorry for not updating!  Since I keep this blog mostly specific to mental health, I have very little to say. Well, a lot to say on the news, but find it too depressing to write about at the moment.

So, a quick update, then.

I continue to be fine, stable and happy. The only mental health related-ness is coming off Seroquel (trying again!) but this time I have gotten down to 25mg, hooray!  I’ve been titrating up Lamictal at the same time (200mg right now), and it seems to be helping. The last time I tried to come off Seroquel I became quite wobbly, so hopefully the Lamictal is helping that.

I’m off university at the moment in my first and last summer break.  I had lofty ideas of spending my time exploring the summer, writing, learning the guitar etc, but what I have actually done is smoke in my pants, watch crap, read Cracked a lot and almost chilled myself on the amount of cold beers I have sucked down.  And I’m not complaining- the past year has been intensely stressful and busy.  Coming off placement I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Shattering 5am starts most days, two 3000 essays to do at the same time and being in an intense environment, being evaluated by staff, being evaluated by patients, listening, listening, listening. I am enjoying the silence. This is a restorative nothingness, and in any case, I’m back in a month.

I’m getting married in 3 weeks, which I can’t quite believe. I had my hen night two weeks ago. I talked Robert into having a stag night, too.

The day started with me lying and waking up my brother and fella and saying we had to go to Peckham for groceries. My hen night (organised by my big sister) was starting with food in the flat, so this was plausible.

An hour beforehand, I sneaked outside with a tent to his waiting friend then went back in and feigned indifference about Peckham, making him get his shoes on. I told him to have a cup of tea and we’d head. No urgency.

We walked up the road, holding hands, with my little brother who had a camera in his pocket. Suddenly, from a white van, four men in balaclavas kick open the doors and run at us. “You’re coming with us!” they shouted at him and grabbed him by the legs. They gestured to my brother and said he was coming, too. So Robert was bundled into the back of the van- doors slam, they sped off.

I went home, thinking, “Ah, what larks!” After a half an hour or so, while I washing my hair, there was a knock at the door. It was the police. They had been around all the other flats already. They asked me if I had witnessed an, “incident”.

It turns out half of our estate rang the police.  10 different phone calls.  I had no idea why we were stupid enough not to anticipate this.

10 different police officers. One at the door who I had to take down and explain what had happened. A sargeant, a DCI, the kidnapping unit involved. A white van had been reported stolen, they put two and two together. Luckily, I’d taken a few photos on my phone so a) proved I had witnessed what was a stag night joke and b) had the registration.

They’d blasted God Save the Queen in his ears while gagged and blindfolded then got the coach to Bournemouth, so they could go camp on the beach. There was talk of getting the Bournemouth police involved at the other end but luckily, two phone calls later (one to Steve, who was the coordinated kidnapper, one to Robert, the, “victim”, as they called him) they believed me and relaxed. The whole road was cordoned off. The angry police officer talked about charging them with wasting police time- but they didn’t call the police. The sargent said worse things happen on a stag night and that she’d be expecting her invite in the post. All in all, I spent an hour, in front of half the flats on my estate, in a towel, explaining what happened.

Half an hour later, there was a knock at the door. And the DCI handed me this:

So, good start to the day! I’m not sure four men in balaclavas bundling someone into a van would have been forgiven in Belfast.

Hen night was proper girly stuff. My sister went mad overboard and made bags for people. Sashes, t-shirts with our names, cocktail glasses, banners on the door. I felt like a dick to start with (I had a tiara with a veil) but I got into it, especially when we all walked outside and the children who live on my estate who were playing in the park started clapping and shouting, “Happy wedding day!” (I corrected them). And next door’s child came and asked for balloons, which we gave her.

On the bus, people were shouting congratulations and well-wishing, and it felt lovely.  I hope it feels equally lovely when we pile on the 345 on my wedding day, since we can’t afford any transport but London buses. (I will be arriving resplendent in a taxi).

We went bowling, were we met my friend who had made up more bags with samples of stuff- perfumes, make up, sweets and booze (and fancy knickers for me). Then got pished, ate, did karaoke and danced, and had my mother in law to be getting me hammered on whiskey.

While we were doing this, my fiance was burning a 2ft tall papier mache effigy of a penis which his friend made him. Apparently it was to symbolise his commitment to me. The penis had crude drawings of naked women on it.

Anyway, this has made me realise the importance- whether internalised or societal, or both- of ritual. I now properly feel as though I’m getting married, it is really happening, and so does he. Giving notice today made it even more real.

Tomorrow I’m returning to the beach where Robert had his stag night and camping there.  After this weekend, he’s working solidly for a week.  The next week is the week before the wedding, which will be ridiculously busy. And the week, it’s the wedding, the honeymoon and then back to life.  Only, I’ll be a wife. How weird.

Writing workshops in Brighton

…and part 2 of what I posted a week or so ago regarding writing workshops…

 

The response has been strongly in favour of meeting in the afternoon.  However the room is booked until 4pm on the first Wednesday, so for that first meeting, we will meet:
4pm till 6pm, Wed 8th August at Community Base, 113 Queens Road Brighton BN1 3XG.  We will be in room South Wing 2, reception will direct you.  
Directions:  come out of the front of Brighton Station and head south down towards the sea on Queen’s Road.  Community Base is a few hundred yards down Queen’s Road on the left.
Following that we will meet every 2 weeks, so that will be Aug 22nd, Sept 5th, Sept 19th and Oct 3rd, in the large Conference room at the top of the building, from 2 – 4pm,
On that first Wednesday we will:
* Share writing and talk about the book, due out end November 2012, ‘collected poetry, prose and performance by mentally interesting writers’ .  
* Do some writing exercises
* Talk about the upcoming performance and how we develop what happened two years ago.  Looking ahead – I’m planning to invite the comedy trainer GILL EDWARDS to run a session for us, I’ve heard she is fantastic, and we have two sessions also, I’m thinking probably the last two, October 3rd and 10th, before the performance, with the inimitable JOHN HEGLEY.
There is no obligation to perform.  I’m hoping that through our writing sessions we will find what people are comfortable with and that both the book and the performance will grow and evolve as we work together.
There is also no onus on writing or preparing comedy.  Our book will, as last time, include all kinds of writing and we would like you to develop what your chosen form is and be part of the group.  Having said that, I think the comedy sessions will be fascinating and will stretch people which I think will be a good thing.
Lastly, for those who have sent submissions many thanks, apologies for the delay, and I will respond before the 8th August.
PLEASE COME AND JOIN US, AND BE PART OF THIS NEXT EXCITING COUPLE OF MONTHS
with good wishes ,   Jon

Jon Potter, Director

COMPANY PARADISO PRODUCTIONS

enabling people to tell their stories

Charity No. 1130701

Want to take part in a television programme about siblings and mental health?

I’m posting this on behalf of Laura, who I can vouch for as being extremely lovely, sensitive and great.  I’m not involved in it myself but thought some of you may be interested?

Hello all, I’m researching some ideas for the BBC about young people (14-28 years) and mental health – specifically focusing on the relationship between siblings where one brother or sister has mental health problems.I’m in the very early stages at the moment and just trying to talk to as many people as possible…but I would be very grateful to hear from anyone who might be willing to talk to me about their experience either of their mental illness and how they feel this has affected their relationship with their siblings – or indeed a sibling who has a brother/sibling with a mental illness.

Some of the areas I am interested in are:

  • Siblings living together – either in the family home – or by themselves…could be that one of you is a carer …or could be that you just live together.
  • Anyone who feels they have received lots of support from their sibling – or have given lots of support.
  • Anyone who is very close to their sibling and has been very involved in the care/support/recovery of your brother or sister.
  • Anyone who feels they don’t understand their sibling or that mental illness in the family has significantly changed the family dynamic.
  • Anyone that is having/or about to have family therapy.
  • Siblings where the brother or sister is going through a big change which will change the relationship (e.g graduation, marriage, baby, moving in or out of hospital, moving in our out of the family home etc…)

If any of the above apply to you – or you just want to have a more general chat to find out more….please do get in touch.

All conversations will be confidential and you are in no way committing to anything at this stage.
Many thanks!

Laura

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