Me talking self harm on Metro’s “Mentally Yours” podcast

Absolutely lashing with sweat due to illness, and having just burst an eardrum by being stupid, I went to a restaurant in West London to meet Yvette and Ellen of the Mentally Yours podcast in which, now having listened, I was surprisingly coherent in retrospect.

I don’t find self-harm the easiest topic to discuss. It’s pretty hard to without getting a bit graphic, so a warning that this podcast does have some fairly graphic language, as well as a few fucks, because it’s me. I haven’t self-harmed in 8 years, but because I live in a scar suit, the reaction my body gets from both the public and the medical profession means I may as well never have stopped.

It’s also not an easy topic to discuss because everyone is so different.  The hardest question I was always asked when I self harmed was, “Why do you do it?” I know the circumstances I self harmed in, the houses, the rooms, the ritual.  But the why, the visceral, deep down why, is mostly a mystery to me even now. I tried to explain here as best I could, the same way I tried when I was a teenager and was confronted, badgered, hectored with the, “Why?” from everybody who in turn wanted to understand their own anger, rage, disgust at it.

I talk about why self-harm might be on the rise in young women, on which I wish I’d said more. What I didn’t mention was my feeling that there’s an earlier sexualisation of young bodies, and self-harm can be both a fuck you to that, and a way of acting out self hatred.   I also touch a bit on the trivialisation and dismissal of childhood and teenage emotions, and of their trauma, and the unfathomable things children endure and can’t express (and bear in mind I blocked someone on Twitter for asking if I had self-harmed due to something like a teenage crush on Boyzone, so do refrain from making fucking stupid comments like that please).

And I chat about coping with scars and what led me to stop, how I stayed that way, and some advice to anyone who might want to hurt themselves.

Thanks for having me, Metro! Have a listen.

 

ANXIETY IS FUCKING BORING

I’m not the most exciting person. Most days, the most exciting thing I do is break our geriatric tap in the kitchen. Whoosh, there is goes again. The momentary crisis of grabbing cloths and jumping back and hot geysers, a tiny little flood. That’s about as exciting as life often gets for me. Occasionally, I might say something slightly witty at an advert. Or write a tweet that gets FOUR likes and retweet. Put on the good bra to go to the shops. Pulse quickening.

I get plenty pulse quickening with my anxiety. Constant, worsening anxiety that turns every single thing into the same thing. Heart palpitations, hard to breathe, floaty, distant, shaking anxiety.

It used to just be Some Things. The Big Things. I’ve written at length about my fear of death and the therapy that I uselessly underwent to help it. I still have that but my more constant anxiety has even turned that heart stopping, face clawing, screaming existential terror into a mundane nightly chore, like brushing my teeth (just kidding, I don’t brush my teeth nightly, I’m not the Queen).  I climb to bed (it feels like a climb because I know what’s coming, that huge boulder perched on the precipice ready to flatten me), put on my sleepy sounds (an app that has waves on it), try and read shit on my phone until I can’t stay awake, but then I invariably do because I’m reading shit on my phone, then a word, a thought, death, dead, older, you’re 32 in a month, I wonder what it’s like to be 82 and know with utter utter certainty you’ll die soon, some sort of black jellyfish thing floats into my brain and sting sting stings until I can’t breathe, and want to fling myself out of the window, just to not feel this way anymore. I’m in bed, I’m safe, nothing is happening to me.

Every night. I could set my watch by it, if I had a watch. I don’t, because ticking clocks make me think of death and I can’t be in the same room as one. WHAT A CARD I AM.

How BORING IT IS to not be able to be in the same room as a ticking clock.  I just go through my nightly panic attacks alone. Occasionally I’ll have flung myself across the room. Reader, in previous years, I’ve even wet myself from fear. Really quietly. Try not to wake up Robert. “Why don’t you wake me up?” Because it’s fucking BORING. BORING. BORING. How many times have I talked this out, with you, with him, with a therapist, with this blog and Facebook and all the other things I fling my feelings at when I’m sick of them clinging to my heart like tar. It is BORING. I have reduced the most primal feeling of all men, all, since the beginning of time, to something so FUCKING BORING.  So self obsessed, so insular. Panic or paralysis, that’s about it.

It makes me angry.

It makes me angry it’s just gotten worse and worse. When is it my time to be okay? Over the past year or so my anxiety has changed from something that happened to something that just is. Everywhere, always. It has infested every single aspect of my life and made every single thing in my life bloodless.  The only exception is my son, because he is life and also because he is so attention consuming in his tiny toddlerness and I have to stop him walking into traffic it’s hard to think or feel anything else but hypervigilance.

Twee cartoons, though helpful for many, don’t capture the boredom of anxiety. They convey chaos, a mind racing with possibilities and thoughts and fears.  And that is anxiety, but racing isn’t the right word. It’s tumbling, jumbling, crashing, smashing and smithereening. Over and over, so it’s just a hum.  Just one catastrophic thought after another. From the big. I am going to die. Smash, bang. I am going to die soon. Smash, bang, thump. Then you panic. Smithereen. Rinse, repeat. (I am not going to do this thing at work well.  Now I’ve wasted so much time panicking I have no time to do it well. I am scared if I don’t cross the road at the right time I will get hit by a car. Now I am dissociating at the traffic lights and can’t remember how to cross the road. I think I fucked this thing up. Everyone must know I fucked this thing up.  I am anxiously obsessing over this thing to my friends. Now my friends must be annoyed at me.  I am coming across as a weirdo because I am feeling anxious and spacing out. Blah blah blah).  I am not suicidal in the least but I think about killing myself with alarming regularity just to never have another day of anxiety.

I am just really bloody tired of it. It is really exhausting. I don’t know what to do about it anymore. I have to think everything over a thousand billion times. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that. I find it hilarious I was once described as “impulsive” when I’m now everything I do is at a glacial pace because I have to investigate every other known option and settle on none of them.  I know in a sense it’s habit. Useless CBT tried to break that habit, it didn’t work. I can’t do mindfulness because so much of my anxiety is wrapped up in mortal things; hearts beating, breathing and all that, so it actively makes me panic more.

I was off work for months due to anxiety.  I had counselling, and was kicked out for missing 2 sessions (one flu, one sister visit). The counsellor was also clearly a bit unsure of me, having expected some sort of 12 session wham bam you’re cured mam and getting someone trying to process trauma and manage a mental illness on top of the day to day stuff (and it is the day to day stuff now really, it takes up such a huge amount of my energy to stay relatively sane while holding down 2 jobs to live and trying to keep everyone in my house not homeless). So I went to a private therapist for an assessment, begged skintness (despite having 2 jobs, I am skint) and will do more therapy, and maybe it’ll help, and maybe it won’t. I can’t take SSRIs because they kick off mania which would be another whole boring pile of shit to contend with. I’ve taken propranolol and it does its business but doesn’t do anything about my head.

Here are some ridiculous things my anxiety has made FUCKING BORING lately.

  1. Booking a holiday. Being in the privileged position of being able to take our first family holiday thanks to my mum in law, I decided the most fitting way to celebrate was to faff and worry so much I didn’t book anything for weeks until it was really expensive and we picked somewhere almost at random. Then I worried about that and felt responsible for preemptively ruining everyone’s holiday and terrified of wasting a lot of money we don’t have on not going somewhere utterly perfect and anyway taking a 2.5 year old on holiday is fucking stupid so I’ll have to ask Facebook for opinions and talk about it constantly until I eventually have a panic attack in the street while I’m holding an emergency sausage roll. THANKS BRAIN.
  2. A meteor shower. The splendor of the heavens! Shooting stars! The inky canopy dotted with bright stars, so beautiful and visible at my mum’s up in the mountains of Northern Ireland.  OH HEY BY THE WAY YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHY THEY’RE THERE AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE BEFORE YOU FIND OUT. Time to go back inside.
  3. Watching a beautiful sunset from my bedroom window. Aaaah, isn’t this nice, and it’s light enough still you might not have a panic attack in the dark. Try to go to sleep now. Go on. Sleep like the dead. What are you doing with your tiny finite life YOU COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE FOR ALL IT MATTERS ANYWAY. ARRRGGGGH.

NOTHING HELPS. Talking about it doesn’t help because there’s no solutions. That sausage roll might have helped for a few minutes, just like this glass of wine I had might have helped too, but that’s it. No baths, no walks, no runs, no good food, no wanky “self care” helps. Because it, all of it, becomes part of the same stair climbing routine with a panic attack at the end.

I’ve mentioned it before but the insularness of it makes me angry. I wonder sometimes if my anxiety is some sort of pressure release system due to feeling constantly and rightly worried about losing my jobs (therefore I must be perfect at them but then I worry so much I am shit at them) and making my family homeless. It is so internally focused that I have tried to block out the world in case my brain just fucking collapses.  Since I last wrote here a thousand awful things have happened and are still happening so I focus all my anxiety on internal, BORING things, some of which are in my control, and if they aren’t, then I try to wrench them into it. Of course, you can’t control everything, and then you freak out.  And this is the biggest thing in my life I don’t feel I have any control over whatsoever which just frightens me more. And bores me, because I am constantly trying to keep it socially acceptable, and that’s boring.  To just be a stuck record that skips over and over. A voice from a speaker in the distance garbled through air, a static buzz.

I’m bloody fucking sick of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Having a diagnosis of mental illness doesn’t mean you’ll be a bad mother.

No matter what they tell you, for years.

I’m often too knackered/too busy/too dispirited by the world to blog, so you can often find me on Twitter instead. Here’s a series of tweets I wrote tonight on the topic of mental health and motherhood. Come and find me and say hello.

(Click on the tweet to read the thread)

Me and @MarkOneinFour on BBC Radio – Ouch: Disability Talk, Let’s talk about mental health … but then what?

Hello! You can listen to me and the lovely @MarkOneinFour talk mental health, Prince Harry and inappropriate dancing on the BBC Ouch podcast this week. Let me know what you think! 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p050rhtp

Evening all

Hello everyone who came from Blurt! And thank you Blurt for the hat tip-check out that link for more excellent mental health blogs. 

Sorry there’s no TOP QUALITY BLOGGY GOODNESS here. That’s because I’ve been really busy. I returned to work after being signed off for two months so I’ve been pretty exhausted. I also have a new job that I’m starting next week, which I’m terrified about (leaving lovely Mind and all my lovely people! Everything and everyone I know! My first Proper Job!) but which will hopefully mean a better balance in my life (no three hour a day commute, hooray!)

I’ll write more soon but for now, here’s a cute picture of my son shouting, “Flowers!” and generally being happy. 

x

Housing benefit scrapped for 18-21 year olds 

At 21 I was mentally ill, couldn’t work, had a dead alcoholic dad and my mum on benefits across the sea.  I would have been homeless without housing benefit. It’s not just a room or a roof, it’s a base, a safe space. Without that I never would have recovered enough to be able to work or have a child, I don’t think I’d still be alive. Stopping work and being able to claim benefits was a positive turning point in my life. That’s just me, one person. 

This will badly impact on LBGTQ people, people who have been abused and can’t “prove it” (how do you prove emotional abuse? Physical and sexual abuse which shames you into silence, gives you a mistrust of anyone with authority over you, as well as the fact that some people rightfully fear the police?) Since the single room rate is for over 35s now anyway what’s even to be saved? Just more needless pointless cruelty.
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/housing-benefit-axed-18-21-year-olds-dwp-damian-green_uk_58b99db8e4b0d2821b4dcc6e?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

My Blog is 10 Years Old! Hooray!

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!

For historians and statisticians:

Total views: 1,512,968 (one and a half million, what the feck)

Busiest day: 8th May 2009 (when the Radio 4 play based on this blog was broadcast- read this post)

My favourite post: Musings on Mumhood- Feminism, Love and Grief 

Followers on WordPress: 4,790

Followers via email: 167

Social followers: 6947

Weirdest search term of the day: slapping your sister in d dream correcting her and u were very angry with her

Weirdest search term in 2017: would i like to eat my own poo (why does this lead here? Now it does again- NO, YOU WOULD PROBABLY NOT LIKE IT)

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