If people treated physical illness like mental illness…

CW: sickness, death, other depressing shit.

 

“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.

 

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If people treated physical illness like mental illness…

Intermission/Declaration of War

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.

Intermission Song 

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.

Intermission/Declaration of War

NO SURRENDER!

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.

NO SURRENDER!

On being a problem

Trigger warning: Self harm scar pics, mental illness discussion, eating disorders, general depressing shit really. 

I am pretty out and proud about the fact I have a mental illness diagnosis. The validity of that diagnosis, I could debate for days, but as things stand, I have Borderline and Depressive Personality Disorders. I also have hella social anxiety or you could call it Avoidant Personality Disorder, I don’t know. The whole diagnosis thing is fuzzy and vague and controversial.

What I do know though, is that I fucking struggle. I’m guessing/hoping that most people don’t have all the fucked up thought processes, bad habits, and maladaptive coping mechanisms I do. If you do though, props to you for making it this far while putting up with this bullshit.

I used to self harm. In my teen years, I made a good mess. It was the only way I could figure out to calm the overwhelming negative emotions that overtook me.

 

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My beautiful arm. Most people are actually decent human beings about my scars. 
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I’ve long since come to terms with my scars, but when it come  to employment and other people who are socially ‘above’ me, I know I am very much judged. 

I stopped self harming. I had some therapy, but mostly I did it by myself. Because I found that starving was better.

When it came to the eating disorder, the therapy was more important. I had weekly appointments with a mental health nurse who seemed real cool. It seemed like she actually understood me. She was pretty young and generally nice. Though she told me the real disgusting truths about eating disorders. About the horrible results you can get from fucking with your body so hard. I thought I was doing OK, but one week I fucked up and lost too much weight. This nurse who I thought was my ally, threatened to send me to hospital, get me sectioned where ‘they could do what they wanted to me’, and I caved. I ate and ate and never looked back. I ate myself into an amazing bulimia. The cure was worse than the disease. But I quit that as well, with no help from anyone. Except maybe my mum. My mum is the unsung hero in all this bullshit.

 

My Good Weight
Me at a low weight (<100lbs?) and standing on freezing concrete barefoot because I wanted to look dramatic or something. I was a stupid teenager. Sorry any teen readers, but seriously, it will get better, you will get through it.

 

I don’t cut or burn or poison myself anymore. I don’t starve or purge. I don’t attempt suicide.

I still think about this shit, but… I don’t do it. I just make myself not do it. Every single day for years I have thought about hurting myself and I haven’t done it. Suicidal thoughts haunt me against my will. The reason I can’t think clearly is probably because I am suffering decision fatigue after 90 times a day deciding to not die.

I know that people wonder why I haven’t done better with my life, why I haven’t achieved more. Well, sometimes just fighting myself for the right to stay alive is a full time job. I know nobody will pay me, but that’s the harsh truth. Mental illness has a real impact on my life, and it isn’t something that can be cured by exercise and healthy eating.

Believe me, I tried. Vodka works better. My official therapy starts at the beginning of next year, and a large part of it is teaching coping mechanisms that aren’t massively self destructive. I’ve written about it before, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, and I do have real hope that this will give me a real chance.

Until then, leave me the fuck alone.

(This post prompted by my dad deciding that we need to have a talk tomorrow about my ‘future career’ and my ‘habits and lifestyle’. My career is writing this blog, and my habits and lifestyle are ‘not committing suicide’. Is that not sufficient? Can I not even have peace until January?)

On being a problem

Looks bad, when you put it like that…

I’m 26 and have never had a job. So far I’ve known the joys of clinical depression, anorexia, bulimia and self harm. Right now my life is enhanced by Borderline Personality Disorder, Depressive Personality Disorder, and probably some kind of anxiety thing. Oh, and G.E.R.D. (gastro-esophegeal reflux disorder, a.k.a. heartburn all the goddamn time, with plenty puking up for no reason thrown in just to make me look even stupider). I’ve flunked and failed nearly everything I’ve tried, except for university, which I managed to graduate 4 years later than everyone else, after wasting 50% of the whole experience being too depressed and panicky to interact with other human beings. The other 50% I was drunk, which was honestly great, though I wish I could remember more.

I’m getting more and more sad. This always happens around this time of year, but right now it is ridiculous. I’ve pretty much lost all the progress I was trying to make, and can’t stop crying. If I ever had any impulse control or discipline, I don’t anymore, or at least it’s all been used up in making sure I don’t cry 24/7. I know they say you should express your emotions, but when I start crying, that’s a day wiped out. One good thing about having a long history of being a miserable fuck is that I know the signs. Feeling on the edge of tears, but unable to cry, means something bad is coming to my mind, is brewing in the background and will eventually explode and ruin something. Constant tearfulness is a prettty standard symptom of depressive disorders. I keep thinking I might have hormonal problems because it’s like having PMS, but nearly all the time. On paper I’m making great plans, I have a full diary. In the real world, I struggle to move. I do manage, though. I went to a poetry night last week and performed two poems. I went on a 6 mile and a 9 mile hike with my dad. I write bits and pieces. My creative work sends me alternating between suicidal despair and driven joy, and is the only thing that occasionally breaks up the ocean of pathetic derealisation and depersonalisation, which are the main alternatives to feeling like the whole world is as tragically sad and unfair as that bit when Bambi’s mum dies.

I have been told in no uncertain terms that the way I live is not at all good enough. I need to be working, driving, exercising daily, and having some kind of hobbies. I need to eat better and wake up earlier.

I got a sleep timing app and it tells me I average about 6 hours sleep a night. I had assumed that I was lazy and wasting time by waking up late, but on top of that, I’m still sleep deprived. I exercise 2 times a week vigorously, not including strolling round the shops or whatever. I cycled 10 miles today. But I didn’t get anywhere and later had a panic attack because I hate shops. The mildest annoyances make my brain flip out and give me a front row seat to the Experimental Jugular Opening Trial. What will work best?
Luckily this is all idle speculation, this is just how I calm my thoughts. In reality I’m just sitting hunched, chewing my fingers/sleeve/scarf, staring into middle distance away from you. It’s actually great progress and mental strength, that I don’t act on self destructive urges any more.
But that won’t get me a job because I’m still a pathetic mental patient who can’t do normal activities without freaking out, so how do I get job and life and stop being such a loser?

Looks bad, when you put it like that…