Mark’s piece has made me want to try and put something into words that I’ve long struggled to, and that I probably will struggle to now (edit: reading over this, yeah, I did). I am struggling to write generally at the moment.
I’ve been writing this blog for almost a decade now (which is fairly terrifying). It’s my story, and it’s a probably familiar one, in terms of the trajectory of someone who was diagnosed with a mental health problem (denial, overidentification, rebellion, acceptance, denial again, ambivalence). The reason I started writing this blog was simply because I’d always written blogs and kept diaries, and my diagnosis and hospitalisation was a big event for me I needed to process, and I wanted to process it in a separate space. I have always worked through my feelings by writing things down.
This blog has gotten a lot of attention- more so a few years ago than now. I did begin to blog less because of, as Mark writes:
“If we are lucky enough to get a large audience we are left with the problem of being known as ‘that person who had that thing that happen to them’. We are invited to speak or write or broadcast about that and that alone. This can be difficult if we want to move on; or if our circumstances change. We may find that people want ‘that story’ and no other story or idea that we may have. Despite our efforts to escape from the events that have shaped our story we may find ourselves being drawn back to it with no clear route of escape beyond stepping down from speaking, writing or broadcasting in public spaces”.
I felt like I was immersing myself unhealthily in my own diagnosis (one I now question, along with any diagnosis at all) , in my own story, in, what can’t be avoided when you’re writing publicly about your experiences and getting attention for it, my own mythology to an extent. My own story was made into a BBC Radio 4 play, which was surreal, and what was more surreal was a psychiatrist questioning my diagnosis and experiences on the basis of a fictionalised version of my life. That was a walk down a wall of wobbling mirrors. And if you’re telling a story and people are asking to hear it, then you’re, whether you like it not, telling other peoples’ stories for them. I’ve never wanted to be the, “bipolar person” who speaks for every single person with bipolar. And when my diagnosis was changed for a while to BPD, having been put in that, “bipolar person telling their bipolar story” box (that I didn’t want to be in) meant that I felt like I shouldn’t be speaking out anymore if under those terms in case I somehow misrepresented other peoples’ experiences.
But I still didn’t write about much else, and I still don’t. I don’t know why. I guess I don’t know what else to write. I want to. Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and because I’m not a successful writer who’s paying the bills with it (that only defines success to me because I know deep down I should really be pushing myself to do it in the little spare time I have, and know there is something wrong that that drive has deserted me) I feel like a failure. And I could have probably paid some bills with a book deal and my lovely agent, but it would have involved writing about myself and my mental health, losing control of it more than I already had. Once it’s in a book you can’t delete it, can’t edit it, can never take it back. Nowadays you fart on BBC3 and get destroyed by Twitter, you use one word incorrectly and are set upon, and I can’t handle that. Half the stuff I wrote at the start of this blog is an embarrassment to me, but I can hide it. I need to be able to hide.
But my story, my mythology, is that I’ve done alright- got The Life they sell you when they’re scratching another prescription onto the pad- a Job, a Husband, a Child, a Life you win by being always a little bit dead because of what they give you to win it (but also poor, in an untidy house, so). And all those things are lovely, and to me in their own ways perfect. I am often happy and I have to admit that I like being the person that’s done alright. I like being a very modest success story. I like it when people email me and tell I’m an inspiration, that if I can have a child and not go mad maybe they can, that if I can live through my childhood and my dad then so can they. I like it when I meet people and they express surprise I’m not dead (high standards, me). I want to be an inspiration. I want this, all of this, to have meant something.
I’ve had a fair amount of abuse on this blog over the years, and that hasn’t bothered me so much. Had a stalker, had someone report me for benefit fraud because I blogged as well as claimed benefits, had them come to my house and go through my bank statements. That hasn’t bothered me, either. It bothered me then, but doesn’t now, that someone who clearly knew me in real life posted here to tell me everyone I knew was laughing behind my back.
What has, and does, is in wanting to keep being inspirational (to an extent), to keep being some sort of success (to an extent), even to keep being interesting (to an extent) has meant that even though I’ve literally written guides to seeking help, I’ve stopped being able to do it myself. Part of that is the lack of extremes nowadays, which makes it easy to hide and mostly tick on with life. What is the point, I wonder, in getting help when your life isn’t falling apart just yet? When you’ve experienced periods of psychosis and mania and seeing and hearing and inviting and running, and suicidal despair and pissing in bottles, then dead sad flat and sometimes panic really don’t feel so important, don’t feel important enough to disappoint people with. And working in mental health, I actually feel less inclined to be honest about how I’m feeling, rather than more, because I’m trying to support people who are struggling, and because I don’t want to let the side down, I don’t want people I work with who might be having a tough time to have to cope with me or my stuff, too. I don’t want to be weak and I don’t want to have to explain things I can’t, that just are, just always have been.
All this stuff- hollow laugh- I’ve heard people say about themselves and back in the day I would have said something clever and reassuring. But I don’t say much these days. I don’t say, turn around and say to someone, I’m struggling. I don’t know what to do. I don’t think I’m well. I don’t know if I’m coping. I can write it here, I can maybe email or Whatsapp sometimes, I can Facebook it to a wide audience therefore not burdening any one person in particular, or I can burden one person in particular, regret it and change the subject, but I don’t say it, not really. What could anyone do? What do I want anyone to do anyway?
I don’t think I’m very well at the moment, I don’t think I have been for a few months, but I don’t think anyone would notice, because one thing sharing my story has given me is a few pat lines to recite in public. Depression is lonely anyway, and we all have our own mythologies we’re trying to live up to. But a consciousness of my story has, for me I think, added a layer of loneliness and isolation, and an increasing inability to properly talk, properly connect. I don’t know if this is just depression talking right now (quite a lot of it is retreating on my side, as I do when I’m feeling down) but it’s how I feel. I’ve felt this way when not depressed and immersed in one of my obsessions and enthusiasms, irritable and confused by how clearly and totally I was boring those around me, and so no longer sharing the immersions, the obsessions, just a roar in my head that overturns cars and keeps me awake at night and carrying on, and with anxiety and being fully aware of just how fucking annoying I’m being going over the same thing over and over again.
It feels very exposing to be anything less than people want you to be, that people apparently read you for, want you to speak for. Being the story is being the story you’ve told, over and over, rather than the person telling the story right now. And if the person telling it right now isn’t really worth listening to, well. What sort of story is that.
Filed under: Mental health |