Pathogen

I had The Illness That Makes Your Head Feel Really Heavy. This is a real illness that has apparently been going round at my mum’s work, making people sign off sick because the intense weight of their head became insupportable. It also gives you all the usual annoying cold/virus symptoms. I spent the past couple of days lying around being weak and pathetic. Now I just feel like I got hit in the head a bunch, keep feeling like I might faint, and have a scritchy scratchy throat. I’m also really tired because I helpfully had a load of nightmares about being bashed in the head and screamed at.

Being ill makes me feel crazy and sad and frustrated. To swith to therapy-speak, illness (along with tiredness, hunger, and being wasted) is definitely a factor in increasing psychological vulnerability. This we learned in DBT in the form of a snappy acronym. DBT loves acronyms. This one is PLEASE, for:

 

Physical

ILlness (treat it)

Eat balanced

Avoid mood altering substances

Sleep enough

Exercise

 

OK I lied about it being snappy. It’s pretty clunky as acronyms go, but it does describe the basics of taking care of your body. This is definitely something I’m getting better at, but it’s still more Bukowski than Buddhist. (And leave Burroughs and HS Thompson out of it!) But I do accept the importance of taking care of yourself – of not completely trashing the body that supports and carries you for your whole life.

The trouble is, I can’t really treat this illness, because it’s basically a really annoying headcold, which is not amenable to anything other than Cold & Flu pills and Tiger Balm (better than Viks vapour rub). Obviously these things don’t really help that much, so now it’s time to mindfully accept the situation.

HAH! Just kidding. It’s time to bitch and moan constantly and do nothing useful. It’s time to wrap myself in a fluffy blanket of free-floating anxiety and curl up on the couch, because outside is cold and the gaze of others makes me feel like I’m burning.

You can tell therapy is working somehow though, because I’m not getting drunk right now.

(I was supposed to be writing today.)

 

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Pathogen

Self-Portrait with Bruise

Robert Okaji is an excellent poet. Nearly every day I am inspired by the work he posts on his WordPress.

O at the Edges

deepfriedbutter

Self-Portrait with Bruise

Some damages announce, others conceal.
How else may we continue

despite our best
inattentions? And which treasure
do we truly hold

closer, the blood orange
or the blade
that parts its segments? At

thirty I would have chosen
one. At forty, the other. Now,
options spread like branches among the cedars.

Ruptured vessels reveal our lapses.

***

This first appeared in Shadowtrain.

orange

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Self-Portrait with Bruise

Neil deGrasse Tyson: pedantry in space

Idiot Joy Showland

Neil-deGrasse-Tyson

Something terrible happened to you in outer space. All you can remember are the last few moments, the sun fading to a speck as you and your crew broke free from the solar system, the ship’s systems suddenly shutting down, the panic and blackness inside, shouting and sobbing, outside the phosphorescent fringes of the wormhole as it opened up in front of you – and then you woke up, sweat-slick in your own bed at sunrise, with the birds singing outside, in another universe. You are trapped in the world of the popular TV astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and you know this, because here the sunrise isn’t a sunrise at all. In fact, the earth is a sphere orbiting the sun, so the sun does not in any sense actually ‘rise’ – it’s just that you happen to be positioned right on the moving line, known as the ‘terminator’, that…

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: pedantry in space

Fear

The world is a scary place. We all know that. Turn on the news and cry.

I feel like things are getting worse. The right wing is rising all over the world, as nationalism emerges as a twisted reaction to economic troubles and globalisation. Governments increase fear and hatred, finding scapegoats and enemies within and without to divide the people and justify violence and authoritarianism.

Here in the UK, the Tory government pushes ideological austerity, transferring wealth from the people to big business and the ultra-rich. A biased media means that it’s hard to even figure out what is true and what is propaganda.

George Osborne has released his budget, which was always going to be depressing. Once again, disabled people have been targeted for benefit cuts. What starts off as abstract economics becomes a devastating reality for people who are already struggling. It seems that the victims of austerity are those who started off with the least to lose. Of course it makes sense that they would target those with the least power, because what can we do?

This might affect me personally, what with the ESA cuts that have also been announced, but that’s not my biggest worry. I’m relatively well off. I’m mentally ill but at least I have my physical mobility. Benefits are not enough for an easy life, and increasing financial stress for people who are already sick is going to have a horrifying impact on thousands of people. I have a friend who suffers from fibromyalgia as well as currently battling cancer, and he has been sanctioned several times already, left with no money at all, for missing appointments he was never notified of. Now he will lose even more. How can we accept that? How could anyone think it is ok for sick and vulnerable people to be forced into penury in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth?

So I am frightened, and I am angry. I am also at a loss. What am I supposed to do?

I used to be politically active. In Guildford we had Surrey United Anti-Capitalists, and we campaigned, we marched, protested, leafleted, held meetings, supported strikes, spread education and debate, supported each other to not feel alone in a world that too often feels like it has gone mad.

Now I am living in a little town and I don’t know what to do. I feel strangely isolated, and it’s been so long that I don’t know where to start. There are definitely active, conscious people working for change in Derby. I have spent time with some of them and they’re brilliant. It’s my own laziness that has stopped me getting more involved, as well as focussing on my mental health stuff. But I can’t have a ‘life worth living’ (as DBT states its goal) without fighting to create a world worth living in. So enough of feeling afraid and disempowered. Things may be going to shit, but that just means it’s time to start building. The new world will stand in the shell of the old.

 

Fear

Abandonment & Rejection

Last night I was helpfully telling my boyfriend about all my amazing symptoms of mental illness (aka reasons he should run away), when I realised something. I was going down the usual list of BPD criteria, and as usual pretty much ignored the part about abandonment issues. I don’t really consider that I have them much more than the average person (or possibly I just have a complete lack of insight), but if you change ‘abandonment’ to ‘rejection’ then damn. 

I generally consider that I have social anxiety because I think everyone hates me and I’m terrified of fucking up any social encounter. But what is the real fear? Not just looking a bit daft, I do that all the time – sometimes even on purpose. It has to be something worse than that. I fear ridicule and definitely I fear somehow hurting or angering others. I fear confrontation. But ultimately, the root of all these fears is rejection. I assume that most people want me to go away, and eventually, they will get the courage to tell me to fuck off.

When I hear the word ‘abandonment’, I think of people leaving. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced much of this in my life. But perhaps rejection is a very similar feeling. It isn’t as abrupt or sometimes even as obvious as abandonment, it comes in many degrees. But at its core is still the message: ‘I do not want you around.’ And that message can so easily be skewed by low self esteem and internalised as ‘You are not good enough to be around’.

Having always been really shy, I assumed that I just had social anxiety as part of my generally anxious personality. But maybe it is actually linked to borderline personality disorder as well. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder to deal with. But hey, knowledge is power, right? And the therapy I’m doing now will hopefully give me some ways to deal with this.

Intellectually, I know that I’m not a completely terrible person. I have an amazing partner, family and friends who aren’t just secretly wishing I’d go away. But in some deep part of my brain which is not amenable to reason, there is a whole tangle of visceral fear and ever-spinning anxiety, just waiting for the axe to drop.

 

 

Abandonment & Rejection