Has seen some blessed times, but now I’m sad and sulking for missing my first gig of the year because I’m ill and skint and just not up for doing things. 2016 exhausted me. Had a beautiful time last weekend seeing friends though, drawing on happy memories to drg through. That and plans of better times ahead.
So, here are my plans/goals/wishes for this year:
learn to drive
perform at some more places
get some performance videos done
perform at festivals
get my show on the road
write a new book of conceptual stuff
actualise some visual/video/multimedia creation
get some decent boots and walk
walk long ways
get strong – lift weights, run, yoga, eat food that isn’t cheese
blog and diary and record everything
get some proficiency in tarot reading
graduate from DBT having learned all the skills and able to use them in life
carry on helping out at Derbyshire Refugee Soidarity
do more Belper stuff
get new glasses
get my stupid painful tooth sorted out/stop moaning about the tooth
go to more amazing camps and festivals
visit many friends, especially the ones I haven’t visited in years
learn/revise Basic First Aid
learn a few tunes by heart on the tin whistle
learn to crochet
sell a load of stuff to declutter and fund all this
apply for a Masters (finance permitting)
don’t drink all the damn time
get some independent self sufficiency
get some community
Edited to add: Run the Tenby Half Marathon again! What am I even doing?! My family talk me into these ridiculous things.
I think that’s enough to be going on with. I’ve made a start today by putting a couple of things on ebay, and I’ve been keeping organised with a Bullet Journal and to do lists. I know Bullet Journal sounds like an enraging gimmick, but I was doing the basic form for half of last year and found it really helpful,so I’m carrying on. Got no memory in general, so writing it down helps.
Keep your peepers open though folks, maybe some interesting things will happen this year…
I made goals a year ago. And then reviewed them on my birthday. There may be a sense of deja vu starting to set in. Spoiler alert: I did not yet become a cyclist, or a journalist. I still can’t knit or play the violin. I have started playing the the penny whistle though. I’m sure the neighbours love it.
So, let’s start with some positives. 2016 was a good year in a lot of ways. I started, and stuck at therapy. DBT seems to be helping. I love the people I share a group with, and the camaraderie we have in learning to live in our lives, and make lives we want to live in. It can be all kinds of hard work and sometimes you find out things about yourself you’d rather not face, but better that than the previous mess. Still a bit of a mess, but… maybe, slowly, I’m getting there. It’s an upward spiral, maybe. A labyrinth, possibly. But despite the wrong turns and confusion (and the odd Minotaur hiding in a dark corner), there does seem to be some kind of change. And a change is as good as a rest, right? I don’t feel so constantly crazy. Though I’m definitely not “cured”, whatever that would mean.
I still help out with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, in the warehouse. Just last night, 40+ people were there, making a heroic and successful effort to load a shipping container full of clothing and other needed supplies for Syria. I don’t feel like this is something to boast about though, more something that I’m honoured to be a part of, even in a small way.
Oh, and I did run that half marathon, and do that abseil for sponsorship money. I also ran a stall at the Padley Festive Fair? which collectively raised over £400 for the Padley Group charity, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in Derby.
I am still living in Derbyshire, and have somewhat made peace with that. So much beautiful countryside, and some really good people doing brilliant social activism and creative works. I’ve been travelling more lately though, mostly within England seeing friends, but to Italy as well for Christmas.
I got a poetry book published, and done something that I never really thought would happen: I’ve developed a certain amount of confidence performing live. I’ve actually got on stage and enjoyed it, rather than just feeling overwhelming dread the whole time. (Although the dread is still there.) This spoken word/reading out loud/actually speaking my words to real live people thing is beautiful. Sharing energy, communicating, that’s powerful. Thank you to City-Zen and Word Wise especially, for hosting such powerful and amazing nights.
I’ve loved and lost and suffered and learned. I’m grateful for the good times. And there were so many good times. Hopefully I’ll learn the right lessons, from the bad times. Twice this year I’ve left a man. Now I’m single and need to be. Not for rancour and isolation. I just need to turn into a real person, before I can be good for someone else. I need to learn my own edges before I blur them into someone else’s reflection.
Friends are love. I’m sorry for neglecting you and missing you and the trials of living scattered across counties, countries, continents.
Thank you all for the good times. We’ve had some adventures.
I’m grateful for my family. I’m back living with my parents. I’m amazed they’ll still have me. I lose count of how many times I’ve come crashing back down to here, to rebuild in this nest. There have been many gatherings and events and meetings, not least the wonderful wedding festival of my cousin. Just, love to the whole enormous crew who I am not going to list and name because we are a sizeable tribe and you don’t want to be here al day.
This year has left me feeling depleted. I’ve known for a while I was running out of energy, burning the candle at both ends, failing to nourish and replenish and all that. There have been some truly horrible times where I didn’t know how I could possibly survive. But, I did. There have been people lost. Real people we knew, not celebrities. Although their families must be suffering the same grief as any, and damn I did love Leonard Cohen. But it’s not at all the same. I’m not going to do a list of loss and trauma and fear. But it’s always there in this life, ocean always wearing away at the sand, chaos always waiting to spin us off into the void. It’s dark out there.
In a wider context, this has been a frightening year. We watched with grief and rage as Syrian children drowned, as Donald Trump was elected, as racist attacks and hate crimes rose as fear and rage seemed to convulse a world spinning wildly between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. What the fuck is going to happen? Who knows? 2016 has been a year where running away to live in the woods has seemed like a more attreactive option than before.
Running on mania, running on fumes, then running out of fumes, running on gritted teeth and coffee and alcohol. Eventually everything crashes. So I go into 2017 with less energy than before, feeling old and foolish, but with optimism that I’ll be able to come back from this.
Nature has nourished me deeply, has been a refuge and saviour and source of deep joy. This is what I plan to delve into more deeply, to return to and explore this year and all the years.
Much love. May 2017 open for you like a flower, and may you learn what you need to, before you are forced to.
As for 2016, I rate it 3/7. 4/7 if it hadn’t killed Carrie Fisher just at the end, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse.
“Try to think calming thoughts. Non-agonizing thoughts.” You croon into the face of the man lying on the ground. You avert your gaze from the jagged end of shattered femur protruding from a bloody hole in his thigh. “Don’t think about the pain. You can overcome this. I believe in you.” Slowly his moans of pain go quiet, his face white with shock and pain. His skin loses its colour, goes cold and clammy. “That’s better. Don’t focus on the pain. Think strong thoughts. Think of how much you want to be well. Take hold of your goals: you will walk!” He lapses into unconsciousness. Pain, shock, and massive physical trauma have taken their toll. Soon his heartbeat fades. “Why aren’t you trying?” You demand, as he takes his final breaths, “Why don’t you want to be well? If you wanted it enough, you wouldn’t die like this!” He dies. You wonder why he didn’t love life enough to overcome his problems.
“It must be so depressing, being a cash cow for Big Pharma,” you tell your friend as she injects her insulin. She’s had diabetes since childhood, and has it pretty well under control with a careful diet and regular injections. “I mean, you’re basically an addict, right? You’d be a different person, without the drugs. You can’t even function without them. They’ve got you hooked.”
“Actually, I need insulin to allow my body to function normal- ” She tries to make excuses, but you have to tell her.
“You’re letting yourself rely on artificial drugs. How will you ever learn to be resilient if you don’t push yourself, learn to be self-reliant? I believe in you. You just need to believe in yourself.”
Worn down by your constant moaning, your friend begins to doubt herself. She skips one dose of insulin, then another. Her partner finds her one morning, collapsed on the bathroom floor. She never wakes up from the coma. You wonder why she was never able to make that final step into true self-reliance. One more death caused by the evils of Big Pharma 😦
You find a growth on your side. It’s sore and painful. It seems like it fits all the warning signs for cancer. It’s still small though. You go to your GP and they frown. “We’ll just give you paracetamol. Until it’s seriously affecting your quality of life, we don’t have any services funded to deal with you.” You go home. Months pass. The growth… grows. You stop going outside for fear that people can see it bulgig under your clothes. It hurts, constantly. Sometimes it bleeds. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. Finally, emaciated and frail, you fall and hit your head. An ambulance rushes you to A&E. You need complex surgery and end up spending six weeks in hospital. Although they successfully remove the tumour, you never regain your full strength. Health problems plague you for the rest of your days. This costs the NHS a huge amount of money, but luckily you are declared Fit for Work so at least the state saves on benefits. You die in poverty.
Sponsor me here, if you so feel. It’s for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity.
I was kind of hungover for abseiling, because the night before was a truly uniquely beautiful night at City-Zen One Mic. So many talented people, and I got up and did a couple of new spoken word bits. People come together to create and talk bollocks and drink and dance and it’s magic. And raised £100 for Rojava Solidarity.
Spent the rest of the weekend with family, which was really nice. We all live kind of far apart, so it’s great when we do get together. Stayed up way too late putting the world to rights (and I managed not to get into any terrible political arguments even though my family are not yet woke to the true necessity of anarchism).
These things have been good beyond measure. In between times, things have been bad beyond measure. I don’t know if I’m actually losing it. Fuck abseiling, this is the real extreme sport. The mood graph prickles like a porcupine and shoots a facefull of quills into my idiot life. Trying to hold while everything spins. I’m too dizzy to run anywhere. My hands hurt.
Did you ever feel like things were going amazingly, but it was all an illusion? No, it wasn’t an illusion, the good times are really real, the adrenaline-fuelled adventures and mad social can’t stop-talking, grabbing life by the balls intensity. But then you have to pay, and the comedowns are really real too, the soul-crushing immobilising depression, unexplained crying, meltdowns and hysteria (yes, I hate that word, but fulfil the stereotype pretty well sometimes). Not to mention, everyone eventually gets tired of full-on emotional intensity turned up to eleven. God knows, I get tired of it. I’m so tired right now that every movement is a battle of wills, just focusing on this blog is really difficult and I’m too hot right now and there are so many more important things happening.
So, that’s where I’ve been, where I am. Oh what a thrill, to be mentally ill. Except for everyone around me. That’s the Intermission, that’s where I’ve been.
Declaration of War
Maybe war is not the best metaphor. Maybe this should be a declaration of trying. A declaration of trying to fulfil my potential, to contribute. War on ones own shadow rarely ends in meaningful victory.
Today we drank a toast to my Grandad, the first person to ever help me write a book. He spent ages printing the front cover on glossy photo paper, putting it in a folder. It was for High School English class, and I got the highest grade possible. The school still had that book, years later. They’d get it out on open evenings as an example of the sterling work of their English students.
“If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I’ve lost a lot of time and money that way, but I still believe it.” – Ron Hunt.
So now I’ve got two books, but there is so much more to do. I’m determined not to let this illness mess with performing spoken mic at City-Zen for Rojava on Friday night. Leaving the house is difficult, and maybe I’ll cry, but better to go outside and suffer than build my own bedroom-sized prison.
And I know it will be so, so much harder now I’m intermittently paralysed by free-form anxiety, but ABSEILING is happening. Saturday, Jury’s Inn Derby, 12:00-2:30pm. Come watch. I will wear a cape. For some reason the sponsorship website is down though, so I can’t link to beg.
Often I feel like a failure, for missing out on so many things because of BPD and whatever other mental issues I’ve got. I don’t want to be known as the flaky one, but in some ways that’s inevitable. I’m working on it though. I try. Seriously.
I hope that I can be even one fraction of the man that my Grandad was, a unique and wonderful man. He was a writer, of a different kind, but I can only aspire to his conscientiousness one day. His love of stationery lives on in me. (P.S. please send left-handed fountain pens.) He was a wonderful wit, a genuinely humane person who saw the good in everyone and did a lot for charity. He was a role model and inspiration to so many. Tonight I lit a candle and me and my mum drank to his memory (a quality Port, I assume he would approve), but I hope to show true love and honour by my actions in the world. For Ron Hunt, legend.
This was not a declaration of war. This was a declaration of love.
The music video is out! Hope in dark times. There are so many of us with mental health problems. We can support each other in this struggle.
WATCH THIS! [CW: depression, self harm]
Hope you like it. No shame in scars. I’m just glad they could be useful, turning the signs of self-destruction into creative vision.
This video was so fun to make, despite the serious subject matter. Massive respect to JD, Sire and Self Taught for making this song, and Evil Unicorn for the amazing video. Thank you for letting me be a part of something amazing.
DOWNLOAD THE EP HERE, NAME YOUR PRICE! Five excellent tracks, well worth it. All proceeds go towards setting up a youth group providing mental health support. Young peoples’ mental health treatment is horribly underfunded, and although the majority of mental illnesses begin during adolescence, 50% receive no treatment whatsoever. (I recommend you read this report, there are some shocking statistics in there.)
I was lucky to be seen by CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) as a teenager, which was about enough to keep me alive. I consider myself lucky even for that, because I know plenty of people whose teen years were blighted by undiagnosed or clinically neglected psychological issues. I wonder sometimes how my life would be different if I’d been diagnosed earlier. Maybe my young adulthood would have been a lot easier. Maybe I’d have a few less scars, and would never have been able to be in this video. Which is just one of many reasons that I don’t want to change the past. I’m thankful to be where I am right now. I just acknowledge that it is much more difficult, now I’m finally in treatment, to break habits and thought patterns that have been part of my being for over a decade. I don’t want any other kid to have to suffer so much.
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.