Happy 10th birthday to this blog! If it were a person, it’d be in its last year of primary school. Bloody hell.
When I wrote my first entry, I was newly dispatched from a psychiatric hospital, newly having just-lost-my-dad, and trying to find my way in the world through a fugue of medications and grief. Although I started this blog to write out feelings I felt were burdening people around me, to get closer to what I was experiencing, really this blog was a way to put distance between me and what was happening to me. To storify it, to fling its tendrils into others and drag them close to me, to share in it. Because I felt alone and for however wise and clever I tried to sound, I didn’t have a fucking clue.
And I had this phone:
A fair amount has changed. I’d have hoped 10 years on I’d be shiny haired in my giant kitchen and recovered, but I’m not. (The Recovery Myth innit) I’ve been off work for the past month with another to go as I continue to be ill (largely strangulating anxiety, never really recovered from being ill at the end of last year) but I’m coping.
Long ago- long long long ago- I surrendered the identity of, “manic depressive” and started to deal with the messy foreverness of just mentally interesting, maybe slightly fucked in the head, maybe also struggling to deal with things that had happened to me, maybe with a dash of madness that a capitalistic world instills in people like you and me (and the late, great Mark Fisher, who ended his life last month, wrote about it beautifully here) in living each day.
But at the beginning, and the middle, I needed that identity. It was a necessary part of getting to the point in my life where I could view the many limbed beast as something that floated alongside me, sometimes vapourously inside me, that didn’t define me, that didn’t own me. To submerge completely, to view my life through that one lens for a while was what I needed. I did, for a long time, need those medications, need that deadening sleep, need that anaesthesia and blue chaired routine of confession and penance. It was painful and exhausting and stumbling and sometimes humiliating and destructive but it did, eventually, get me into a quieter place, a quieter mind of being able to begin to untangle the what it is and what I am, and to be more gentle with myself and those around me who often suffered alongside me in each episode and in its self obsession.
That’s the biggest change, really. That I am a person with, or who experiences x, y, z and not just that. You can’t escape that- the that is why I was under the perinatal team in pregnancy, the that is why it takes me so long to ask for help when I need it, the that is why I feel shame, despite everything, the that is the that that lurks in the background whispering it can kill you, anytime, no matter what, when you least expect it. But I’m still here.
I’m still short, still fat. I’ve got a child, whom I adore, and reading back those early entries were such anxiety about ever having children, and I’m so glad I did. I don’t write as much as I’d like to, I work now when I wasn’t sure I ever would, I don’t take medication anymore but don’t rule it out, and I still can’t read a novel to save my life. I made it a rule not to discuss my relationships in detail in this blog, but I’m married and happily so, boringly happily so. I’ve always been quite lucky in that respect. I’ve got friends and quite a few of them I made through here. I also pretty much got my job because of this blog.
The world has changed in 10 years for the worse. Back when I started this blog I was on benefits and didn’t fear too much the brown envelope, which is unthinkable now. I don’t write so much about that either as I never feel I can do justice to it, someone always says it better. I feel like what I say about that here would be facile, so I’ll save it for another post.
Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me for the past DECADE. (I am old). For the people who were there at the start and carried me through the worst years. And who are here now listening to my bollocks on WhatsApp. For historians, this is the first public entry, 10 years ago. I made most of my earliest blog posts private due to the toe-curling embarrassment of writing while under the influence of being 21 years old. Most of my early posts here made me utterly cringe in their melodrama- but now, with my greying temples and the tantrumy toddlerdom I live with- I’m far more sympathetic to the barely out of teenagehood of it all. There’s a sweet romance in the melodrama of that age, whether you’re just out of a psychiatric hospital or just out of school, or both.
So if you’re a teenager and reading this, and you’re Instagramming, tweeting, blogging or Snapchatting mental health, keep doing it. When I started writing here, there weren’t many mental health blogs around and there wasn’t much of a community. Now there is, it’s flourishing, people are sharing their stories, finding each other. Keep finding each other. Don’t worry about how you sound or look or if you’ve written something lovely. It’s not about that. Challenge the narrative, don’t let anyone speak for you. I wish you’d all been around when I was a mental self harming teenager who had no idea what was happening to me and no way to explain it. You’re doing good things. Keep doing it.
Not sure there’ll be 10 more years- it gets harder to write here the more of a, “normal” life I need to lead. Despite 10 years, I still feel worried or self conscious about what people must be thinking when they read this. But maybe if I can make more time, more space, I can write more and care less. That’s what I’d like. Either way- thanks for sticking with me. You’re a great bunch of lads. I hope my bollocks has helped!
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