I fucking hate positive thinking and all that happy pop-psychology become-a-smiling-consumer adjust-yourself-to-a-profoundly-sick-society bullshit.
That brigade seem to have co-opted the concept of gratitude, which kind of sucks, because counting your blessings can be helpful. Especially for people like me, with a very emotion-dependent memory. When I feel bad, my brain only goes to bad things, a never-ending referential wormhole of backwards-looking negativity. So finding something to be grateful for can arrest that spiral.
Today I’ve been feeling like shit, exhausted and coughing, like I’m an automaton made of lead and my movement mechanisms haven’t been oiled in the last 100 years.
So, here is a gratitude list. Right now, I am grateful for:
My room, my own room.
My house and my parents and not having to fend for myself in the scary world
My brother, who just sent me this and cheered me right up.
My cool as fuck tarot cards which I’m just getting to know. It’s a journey into a whole new world, and the art there is amazing.
I have friends
I have a cool Bullet Journal to try organising my life with, and the motivation/capacity to try. I didn’t have that a year ago.
Never get bored. So much to do, so much to dream…
Ooh, today is my one year anniversary of DBT group! Thank you Facebook memories for reminding me. I can’t believe so much has happened over a year. I’ve met and shared support with amazing people who have become real friends. I think I’ve made progress. If you’d asked me a year ago to make a gratitude list while I was in a mood like this, I’d probably have tried to glass you. You know what, just writing that, I realise that I don’t feel bad anymore. This stupid shit actually works. Anyone reading this who’s kind of on the fence about therapy and trying, because it’s uncool as fuck and also really hard to care when your mental illness is distracting you with how much you hate yourself, you should totally try. As a bitter and cynical person, sometimes you’ve just gotta make an idiot of yourself, do things you think will never work, but do them wholeheartedly, or as heartedly as you can muster, and eventually, something will change. Something you try will have some kind of effect.
I’m not promising miracles, but well…
This was my Card of the Day. Everything changes. The wheel always turns.
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.
I’m in Turin. Church bells ringing midnight, calling in Christmas. I just cracked a cold beer and nestled under the blankets on a sofa-bed that creaks every time I move.
My parents bought me here. Dad is renting this apartment for a short-term work contract. He’ll be moving out in a week or so. They paid for me to come and spend Christmas with them and see Turin before he goes.
This is the first Christmas I’ve had with my parents but no brother. It’s different. No partner in crime.
Turin is beautiful, historic and grand with the joins showing where history and war and modernity have built palaces, torn them down, added and removed bits according to the whims of kings and the visions of architects, the necessities of time and change. Streets are grand avenues wider than anything in London, in this city with a single Metro line. Walking through, you can feel dwarfed by the scale of the huge buildings, rising solid and ornate, ten stories high. That is, until you see the graffiti tags, the stickers on every lowered shutter. I even spotted a few posters for anarchist federation demos plastered in the grand arcades.
It’s history but not a theme park. People live here, really live here. Christmas Eve, and the centre was packed. Last minute shopping, enjoying the Christmas lights. We walked all afternoon, walked for hours just looking in windows and at buildings and statues, at a culture similar but different.
No Christmas traditions this year, apart from eating and drinking too much, and exchanging a couple of gifts. Which is, I guess, the essence of the thing. Gluttony and goodwill, a shout of drunken defiance against the long Winter nights, a warm hug to hold us until the Spring sun thaws our hibernating hearts.
I’m not going to pretend I love this season. Yule, Christmas, Winterval… it’s always been a source of anxiety as well as joy. I know some of you are suffering, while others are loving it. And many more are somewhere inbetween, fighting life’s stresses and darkness to claw out a nest of happiness and ragged tinsel, a drunken sanctuary, a holiday holy day for the holes in hearts and minds.
As I grow older, it becomes clearer how valuable, how absolutely essential it is to take time out to connect with your people, to take a moment away from the usual hurry and distractions of life to say: “You are important. You are loved. Your love gets me through the dark Winters, and I share with you alike, the warmth of my heart.”
So, from Turin, I send you my love.
Merry Christmas, buon Natale, Winter wishes, and may Spring come soon.
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.
Sorry this post is a week late. Life is chaos, chaos is life.
Edited to add: Chaos indeed, in the first edition I forgot to put my finish time! Well, I did better than I thought: 2hr 28:55!
But well, I ran the Wales Half Marathon and it was amazing. Last year it was incredibly painful, and I could only call it fun in the most masochistic sense of the word. This year, with a tiny amount of training (a weekly run with Jog Belper, a bit of yoga, and one eight mile run) it was actually an enjoyable challenge to run 13 miles. Well, most of it. Some of those long evil hills could only be power-walked. Still, it was beautiful.
My last-minute sponsorship quest for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity paid off, with £115 raised so far. This includes £10 given to me during the race itself, by two guys running for the equally excellent charity Hand in Hand for Syria. This was a really touching gesture of solidarity as we struggled up Manorbier Hill.
Thank you so much to everyone reading this who sponsored me. That money will go a long way towards supporting people displaced by the wars and unrest in the world. It seems a weird disjointed blog post, thinking about them and going on to write about champagne, but I suppose at least something good has come from this, for more than just me and mine. Spreading the love.
We stayed the whole weekend in Tenby, a big family affair. My cousin cycled 112 miles, which is an unimaginable feat of endurance. Mum, two aunts and brother did the half marathon, and my brother’s girlfriend did the 10k. Chris was my essential moral support, waiting at the finish line with a bottle of champagne.
Afterwards we went paddling. Because why the hell not? Champagne on the beach, the glow of athetic achievement… what a buzz. Never felt anything like it. All kinds of magic.
Or hey, why not go for a run yourself? Or a walk, a bike, a stretch, a swim, whatever you feel like doing, whatever is possible for your own body. I was skeptical as hell about exercise improving mood, but I think I’m convinced now. I’m already looking for the next race…
I’m pretty happy. Things seem to be going well. There has been change and sadness, the end of a long partnership. There was no drama, just a point of sorrow from which we could not salvage each other. Things had been sad for a long time. I hope people don’t think me heartless. It hurts. A part of me is gone. An era of my life, 5 whole years, is over. This is the first really amicable break up I’ve ever had. It’s a lot more painful without the balm of righteous anger.
Endings lead to beginnings and I’ve made a new start: I fell in love and he’s amazing. I never planned this. I planned the opposite, a year of being single and working on my mental health. I guess the universe likes to surprise us. We’ve been having some amazing adventures. I think he’s good for me. I hope we’re good for each other.
I’m happy and it’s like standing on a clifftop while the wind gusts through your hair. It’s exhilarating and amazing. It makes your heart beat faster. It’s a fucking long way down. Don’t jynx it.