On being lonely

I’ve written about pissing into bottles when I’ve been depressed, and yet to me, this is a blog  whose responses I fear the most. Because admitting that you’re lonely seems to be the most shaming thing you can do. We’re meant to be glitzy! Instagramming! Vineing our awesome lives! And this will sound like one long self pitying tract, which it is, really. All I want from it is to get some thoughts out of my system. It is not a plea for contact because as I will explain I must do those things on my own terms and not be forced into them or feel obligated because I find that scary and overwhelming. Like someone who hasn’t eaten for a bit- I’ll be sick and not want to eat again if I have a big meal. I need to have little nourishing small things that I am comfortable with.

So. Continue reading

A World without Rik Mayall

I don’t write about other things much in this blog, but the death of Rik Mayall means that I bloody well will. Because Rik Mayall was brilliant, and now he’s dead, and I just wanted to write a short bit about how ace he was, and what he meant to me.

I’m not one to sneer at people who show emotion when a celebrity dies.  Although the hyperbolic, competa-bituaries sprout up as soon as the heart-clutch hits the ground, I don’t think that it means that the grief isn’t genuine. Of course we don’t know the celebrities who die. We grieve for the person as they were to us, a little piece of our own history, and of ourselves. And it feels like a little bit of you dies with them.

And that’s the case for me with Rik Mayall.  He was as interwoven into the fabric of my childhood as those I shared school desks with, the scratched names on trees, the scraped, red-raw knees. Growing up, comedy was (and still is) the ultimate kiss-it-all-better.

Rik Mayall had that elastic, silly, manic energy that was magical to a child. The flailing limbs and swivelling eyes of a childhood tantrum. How can that be gone? Rick was the kind of spotty adolescent oik that older people laughed at but the younger people (well, me) secretly wanted to be. And as an adolescent myself, with my copy of the Communist Manifesto in my leopardprint bag and vocal, uninformed political arguments, who I became in some ways.

I wasn’t born when the Young Ones first aired, but it was one of first VHS videos we asked for when we got a little combi TV. Being a bairn growing up in West Belfast, I didn’t get the satire, but still found this hilarious. Especially Stephen Fry’s complete underreaction to getting a jug smashed over his head, as if he’d gone through life like that.

On my ninth birthday, when I went to the swimming pool in Andersonstown, I wasn’t allowed in because I whipped the blue towel of my bag and did this:

reciting lines from, “Holy”. It was Richie’s face I pulled behind my teacher’s back.

And Drop Dead Fred was my first love. It’s a strange film, wildly varying in tone, either a meditation on mental illness and abuse, or a live action cartoon. But as a lonely child, Drop Dead Fred was my ideal boyfriend. A cheeky sidekick, a partner in crime, someone who who would stand up for you.

As I got older and worked backwards, I found the Comic Strip Presents (Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, Bad News and Dirty Movie are amongst my favourites, though Ade Edmondson and Peter Richardson are the stars of the best- Eddie Monsoon- A Life and Strike!), 20th Century Coyote, the Dangerous Brothers and Flash’s turns in Blackadder.  As well as the execrable Guest House Paradiso, which I hated, but which my little brother absolutely adored. This was my growing up and away, while the love of Rik and Ade was passed to the younger generation. And so it goes.

Rik Mayall is part of a sense of humour that got embedded deeply inside my own personality and psyche, even the way I cope with life, and it’s strange that now the world doesn’t have him anymore, and that the next generation won’t have him either. A world without Rik seems a little more boring and grey.

Living in a Scar Suit- the summer edition

Edit: Before I start, I want to say that these are my feelings on my own self harm. I’m not talking about yours, or anyone elses’. This is my post about my body and my experiences.

Just a bit of a whine really.  When I’ve written about self harm here before (take a wee look at the comments page of this entry, it’ll lead you to the others), it’s been with reflection and optimism. I don’t feel that way today about my scars. Just pissed off. Stupid. Now that the sun is out, I look like a bloody zebra. A slither of sunlight on my arms turns my skin red and the scars whiter. Freckles pop out. It looks terrible, and it makes me feel like a fucking fool for what I’ve done to my body.

I can’t buy into all this, “your scars are a reminder you’ve survived” stuff, and all the other things self harmers tell themselves so they can live in the scar suit. I don’t view them with any profundity, though I’ve tried to. Increasingly, I see my self harming as a teenage folly gone way, way too far. Perhaps that’s just me trying to protect myself from the reality of what I did- to distance myself from it so I don’t get lured in again.  I would have stopped at the self-conscious scratches in my early teens, I think, if I hadn’t been practically dared to go further as a way of proving that I was in real distress, not just faking it. People dismiss scratches but not the deep, lacerating gorges I eventually wrought onto myself. I was only 13 (or 12?!) and was experiencing the start of getting mentally unwell, and the anger imherant in encroaching “womanhood”. What a stupid thing. A stupid thing especially because after the experimental scratches  (the reason I started self harming was because I’d read an article about how self harm was awful yada, but what I focused on was that they said it helped them when they were depressed) which got a, “What the fuck are you doing?” responses, I hid my self harm.  I was proving nothing to no-one, I was just getting deeper into a terrible coping mechanism for my mental health. And when it was discovered by my parents I was still self harming, they went mental, my mum especially. Having pleaded, cried and hidden all the razors, she kicked the crap out of me in angry fright.

I haven’t self harmed in years.  I have sometimes been close to it, but present enough in my mind where I can think about the pain, the embarrassment, the difficulty hiding.  Not the pain during- it rarely hurts during for me- but afterwards.  Of getting clothes on and wincing, fabric getting stuck and reopening the cuts like a zipper every time it needs to be torn off (every time, every day, every night), of crying from pain the bath and shower, of shrinking away from touch and not being able to stop myself yelling out if someone touches me, of trying to get into bed covering my cuts and being so ashamed of them I put pyjamas on that I have to peel off in the morning. The embarrassment of feeling like a dickhead, of people noticing and giving you that look (I’ve never gone to A&E for my self harm though on multiple occasions I should have. But I’ve heard enough stories of how shitty people are treated there to put up with the disfigurement and pain than to get myself help- I do not advise this and I wish I had gone sometimes). It was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the hole.

But the scars haven’t faded as much as I hoped they would. They’re still pretty severe, and there’s no way I can pass them off as anything other than what they are. There’s no hiding them if my sleeves are up. Crucially, most stupidly of all, I cut my face once, and I have little cat-whisker type scars on my cheeks. What a stupid fucking twat I was for doing that. Suffice to say, I was hardly thinking straight.  I was going through one of the worst times of my life, mentally. So I could let myself off the hook. But I can’t. Every time I look in the mirror, I think, “You stupid cow.  You’ve hated your face and your body all your life and you gave yourself a bloody good reason to”. Maybe that was half the point. I grew demented having body dysmorphic disorder but people telling me I’m beautiful. Liars, liars!  I *wanted* them to tell me I was hideous so I didn’t feel as if I were losing my mind. Well, here, you can’t keep lying to me now. Knowing, in retrospect, that my beliefs were quasi-delusional, makes me want to scream at myself even more for what I’ve done to my body.

Now it’s summer and the world is out in thin cotton dresses and short sleeves and I am, as usual, hoodied and cardiganed up in increasingly dark and dour clothes (having gained so much weight, I’ve completely lost my style, too. No idea how to dress myself at this weight. No money, either).  I have worn my sleeves up a few times outside, and in the garden.  I roll my sleeves up at work if I’m too hot (often, because I chronically overdress, and don’t feel comfortable or safe unless I’ve got a coat), which is progress.  But then again, I work at a mental health charity so you would expect them not to be shocked or discriminatory about self harm, which they aren’t.  No-one has ever commented and I’m sure I’m not the only one who works there who has self harm scars. But when my sleeves are up, I’m so aware of it, and so distracted by my own awareness that I tend to eventually roll them back down again.  When I was doing my nursing degree (I quit that last year- did I ever write about why? If not, maybe I will), I wanted to shrink into nothingness when I had my sleeves up.  When one nurse demanded of me when I was in a patients’ room with her (and the patient had taken a fucking overdose!), “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ARMS?!” I wanted to disappear. I didn’t know what to say. I hated that, here was a patient and yet now because of my very visible marks of past distress, I’m the patient. One of my placement coordinators was also very rude about them and I felt humiliated. I have a good sense of humour- it’s my best defence- so responded in quips. But I felt like crying when she left the room.  Crying from shame and also anger.  Crying that for the rest of my life, I’m going to get comments on something which is as relevant now as an old leg break is. Permanent. Forever.

I’ve considered asking for surgery but they are too multiple, and it would leave me with new scars.  When I met another blogger who also self harms, she gave me some camouflage make up, which did a great job of hiding the colour (but not the texture). I may use it this summer. It’s not that I’m afraid of peoples’ reactions in the street (and you do get them), it’s the feeling of difference. My scar suit doesn’t suit anything. There’s nothing I can wear that makes me feel confident. Even with the (hot, itchy) make up, I know they’re under there.

I hate my scars. I think they’re ugly. I hate that when people see them, I can see their mind working. They’re filling in my past for me, and my future.  Abused, they think, unstable, they think, angry, they think, impulsive, they think, attention seeking, unsafe, unwanted, mental, violent, aggressive. They fill in the space where I’m standing with someone else.  Literally marked for life.  And it’s maddening.

It’s happened a lot with doctors and nurses, especially. Before I even open my mouth, they’re telling me my life story.   And I want to reply:

It’s one of the reasons why I find myself asserting all my little trappings of the Normal Person. LOOK, I’M MARRIED! SEE? FUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIP! We watch Netflix! We do boring bullshit together! I don’t just sit there whacking chunks of my arm while he plays a sad song on a cello in our dank basement! LOOK, I WORK FULL TIME! AND WORKING FULL TIME IS WHAT THE MENTAL HEALTH GATEKEEPERS SAY MEANS YOU’RE A NORMAL SHINY RECOVERED PERSON WHO HAS NO PROBLEMS AT ALL! I’m not going to eat your babies! I’m worthy of being treated like a human being!  etc.

Yeah, I hate them. If I could go back 15 years, I’d do two things.  One, I’d smack the first cigarette I smoked out of my paw and say that I’m going to regret inhaling that more than anything else I’ve ever done in my life, even if Dearbhail looks cool doing it. And two, I’d have become distracted by a cat or something when I picked up that article. I never stood a chance, though, given I was also a fanatical Manic Street Preachers fan. Then I’d have scrawled somewhere in the notes of the Holy Bible, “Look, Richey was brilliant, but he was fucking miserable and he went missing.  If you’re struggling to cope with your mental health, and all the trappings of adolescence that will make you hormonal and even more unstable and confused and looking for something to cling to, then take up a nice, socially acceptable way of coping, like drinking heavily.  And then, in 15 years time, you can look back and laugh at it all with your mum and da…



Dropping out of 10k

I’m just letting you all know that I won’t be running the Bupa 10k this month.  Lots of people have sponsored me and it won’t be in vain- I’m in touch with Addaction to do another fundraising thing later in the year, something bigger than 10k when life isn’t totally shit. I’m not just sacking it off and I promise I will earn the sponsorship.

The reasons I’m dropping out- over the past few months a lot of stressful stuff has happened.  I’ve been struggling with my mental health and with resulting exhaustion.   I have found it much harder than I expected- not in a, “oh, running is hard” way but on a, “oh, running is hard on antipsychotics and customary winter total lapse into low mood” way.  I keep judging myself by Normal Person standards. When I have gotten out to run, I’ve injured myself- once with an asthma attack and twice with ankle injuries.

But all that aside, I planned on powerwalking the fucker if I couldn’t run it and was intending to spend this month doing loads of walks (I’ve done a lot of walks already).

And then we had the greatness of our new flat (we only moved in 2 weeks ago) going on fire due to the landlord’s negligence with electrical safety and me ending up in hospital and now wrangling with our landlord who seems totally unconcerned that we could have died (and I didn’t only because Robert wasn’t working that night- he was the night before and would usually either be there or asleep. There was no smoke alarm) and is leaving us with a bombsite bathroom, a smoke damaged flat and me feeling quite traumatised, and coughy and now having to spend the next few weeks in a fight and trying to sort the place out and also possibly having to find somewhere else to stay for a while.

We’re alive, obviously, but it’s the latest in a long line of, “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE”.

I am at the limit of what I can cope with and I can’t take the next three weeks worrying about doing more training or failing at the 10k.  I know I should persevere but I am struggling to cope right now.

I feel awful and shit about this and like a total failure and if anyone wants their sponsorship money back, please let me know by emailing me at anne dot elk at gmail dot com.  I will be doing something else later in the year- probably not running, though.

I’m really really sorry and I promise I will do something even better when things aren’t totally shit. Thank you to everyone who has donated to me.

And usually I support squatting…

My other website (google my name Seaneen Molloy, you’ll find it) has been nicked and is now being squatted. I have no idea if I can get it back, I seem to have lost everything on it. Just so you know, there’s nothing there now but spam. I am a twat. I forgot to send the Paypal to renew it and now it’s gone forever. 

Thanks so much to Bekki Williams for hosting me so generously for so long. I’m sorry I’m a forgetful eejit.

If anyone has any ideas about how I can get my stuff back, I’d love to hear them :(

Archive has saved a fair amount though:


Control- Or, Why I Haven’t Written a Book

People ask me why I haven’t written a book. And because I promised to clean the kitchen earlier, I’m going to sit down and tell you. And it might sound really pretentious. In short, I wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of writing a book and dealing with the fall out. In long…

I actually had a literary agent in 2009-2010.  A proper one. I met her by accident. She casually emailed me, having found this blog, to ask me in for a chat. So I went.  I’m always up for a chat. I will speak to anyone. A beautiful office off Leicester Square, with this beautiful woman,  bare feet under her desk.  I didn’t think the chat was an interview. I went in there with talc all over a skirt and unwashed tights. I talked about writing a book, maybe. I’m a writer and I want to write a book.  Writers write books. Semi popular bloggers write books. I didn’t actually realise she was a literary agent- or the director of the company.  She was both.  She was one of those women who awe me- tiny little scrawler, benefits crawler.  She was disarming and friendly, wickedly funny and clever, and believed in me. I hoped we’d be friends.

I remember running out of the office to Robert, in blinding sunshine, skipping and dancing. I was going to write a book!  I would do what I had always wanted to do- be a writer, a REAL writer. Not just a blogger, not just someone on Facebook.  I could write a book people keep on their bedside table like I kept, “The Bell Jar” on mine. To find comfort in. I might even get a little advance.  We walked through rich London, past restaurants off-limits to patchwork stigs like us. I held his hand and pointed at menus.  “One day”, I said, “We’ll get dressed up and I’ll take my advance and we’ll eat in here”. It felt like I was entering a whole new world.

It never was, of course.

The agent was lovely.  She sent encouragement when I flagged (often), once even a box of fancy tea and biscuits, which was utterly appreciated because at the time, I could afford neither (fancy or otherwise). I felt cherished- when was the last time I felt like that?  I took the impoverished writer thing and ran with it. Or lurched. Because it’s hard to write a book when you haven’t got the distance from yesterday.  I could put my thoughts down- even use my blog- and be honest. But honesty is terrifying enough when you’re writing words you can hide.  Ones that are published, in ink, and can never be hidden? Pulped, maybe, but read.  In someone’s head, inaccessible to me. I can’t say, “But…”

Then my diagnosis was changed by my psychiatrist to borderline personality disorder. It sent me into a tailspin, because I had spent the past 4 years on a punishing regime of medication, trying to come to terms with things, medication I apparently didn’t need, terms which apparently were not mine to accept. My CPN had written letters about it. In retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I’d gone there to talk about stopping medication. He approved and the predictable happened. But what I also did was realise I had a lot more control over my situation that I had thought. I’m not saying everyone does. But I did.

I had relied on the bipolar crutch too often. I knew what everyone wanted, the, “Bipolar Memoir”- the most saleable of things. I didn’t want to inadvertently speak for a community I maybe wasn’t even part of.  Highs, lows, glamour, despair- but above all else, blameless. It’s a precious identity. This outside thing. You are the centrifuge. And that wasn’t me. Maybe I still had the bipolar aspect. But what I had ignored, always, painstakingly ignored, was that I had a lot of trauma. Festering memories. Pain, scarred all over my body. Things which I minimised but which were hurting. And the BPD diagnosis made me look at them- really look at them.  It was time to deal with them.  And I did, and eventually I stopped self harming. All of my BPD aspects disappeared (whether age, or insight, who knows). My moods didn’t, but it was still a win for me. To face it all, and still be facing it. Crushingly self aware in many ways, infinitely more anxious in others. But I am a person. Neither borderline nor bipolar was who I was, who anyone was. I am a person and not a set of diagnosis. Not a set of symptoms. I have a history and a future and it’s not all there in a few words. Not even in 100,000.

And at the time, I didn’t feel like I could write a book anymore, when I hadn’t come to terms with those things myself. Things weren’t as simple as I had thought they were.  Bipolarity was half the story. Maybe not even half.  These weren’t just things that happened to me. They were things that were happening to me.

“Can I fictionalise it?” No, because I am the product.

How much of yourself can you give away? How much can you believe your life is fundamentally interesting? How much can you sell?

So I couldn’t write a book when I wasn’t sure myself of what my story was. When I didn’t want to sell myself. There were things I wanted to put down, so much. I wanted to write and write about my dad. The good and the bad. To immortalise, somewhere, somehow, somewhere else than our brains and our increasingly mosaiced memories.  He existed, look! He was here. We are here. I wanted to write about West Belfast. The oddness of growing up in the shadows of a mountain and the British army.  Of having parents with mental illness. Of being working class. Underclass. I wanted to write about the silly things. The annoying things. They things that make you a person. It’s what everyone wants to write about. If it was just those things, I would have written it. But my narrative, my, “angle”, was never clear cut. No-one’s is. And at that time- 24, before I began to really get better- I didn’t have the distance, the objectivity, or, in fact, the balls. 

If I wrote a book, I could never go back. It would be there, forever.  These kind of books require confession. And how could I confess to sins I didn’t know I had committed? I didn’t want to be unfair to my mum, or my siblings, or my family. To my relationships, to my past, my present. It was very much not the right time. I couldn’t write a book that I could never take back, and I couldn’t write in the state of mind I was in, which was always worse than I let on. Those people who are not people, but who are ideas of people filtered through me.

So I didn’t. The agent and I lost touch- she probably exasperated by my flakiness, which became total inertia.  I couldn’t lose the control I had over my own story. I couldn’t submit my history to editing and blurbs. Because it is so dreadfully important to me to have that control. I have this space. I can be uncomfortable in others. I don’t get Twitter sometimes- the flying of the deleted tweet unnerves me. I’m not good at brevity, I can’t do 140 characters, and all my views are grey, not black and white.  These are my words, my thoughts. Ones I’ve had to reclaim, from the child telling her teacher she’s being bullied, to the teachers telling me I’m too ill for school, to psychiatrists reframing my experiences in their language (mania, hypomania, depressive, panic disorder etc), to the government telling me I am worthless, to relationships telling me what I feel is wrong when to me, just feeling is so important and the most integral part of being alive, of wanting to feel, to argue, to talk and talk and talk.

I have regretted it, lots of times. Sometimes I think what an opportunity I wasted. I’d happily take Clare Allen’s job. Self consciously, I have always thought of myself as a writer and always wanted to be one. And I could have been one- and how would the back sleeve have looked then? A smiling face, a glorious kitchen. A fallacy. I wasn’t recovered- not even close. Mad people are only allowed to write retrospectively. Not while being mad. What kind of blurb would have stood astride it?

I’ve seen friends of mine (talented, hardworking friends) become Proper Writers and feel as though I’ve been left behind. Wasted the one big opportunity I had, in the world of Proper People. Probably desperately uncomfortable, probably desperately alone. With a book that was false and awkward. But with a book, with a book…

Now? I could probably write a book. But over time, I have come to appreciate the aspects of my life I don’t write about here. Don’t want to. And you have to. When I started blogging, the confessional was something new. It’s everywhere now, this instant feedback on your life. Sometimes unwelcome. Sometimes asked for.

I still want to be a writer. I have no idea how. Nobody is interested in me now. Nobody would want to be my agent (which I would need as I am horrible at self promotion). Maybe the time has passed. “The Secret Life of a Late Twenties Charity Worker”. That kind of kills, in some ways. This is my life, nearing 30, and I’m not a writer yet. But I still do a lot of what I love. I am glad that I didn’t write my 2010 book. How would I have ended it? It wasn’t the end. It’s not the end.

Dear Edwina, Thankyou for last night. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. #bigbenefitsrow

Mentally Interesting:

I love Jack Monroe.

Originally posted on JACK MONROE:

Dear Edwina;

It’s 9 o clock on Tuesday, the morning after the night before, where we were both on a panel on The Big Benefits Row on Channel 5. I haven’t watched it back, I was there, and know what I look like when I’m angry.

I need to get this out – because it’s everything I wanted to say last night but couldn’t, as I kept being rudely shouted over by you. Honestly, my three year old behaves better than that. At least he knows that when Mummy does her ‘will you just be QUIET and LISTEN to me’ then the best thing to do is to stop running your mouth and let Mummy say her piece.

But you didn’t. Because you were terrified of what I had to say.

I wanted to say, when asked by Matthew Wright, that poverty is almost indescribable to someone as blinkered as…

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