Gratitude List

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.
  • Babybel.
  • 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. http://tarot.ccEverything changes. The wheel always turns.

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Gratitude List

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.

 

If people treated physical illness like mental illness…

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!

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.)

 

Pathogen

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

Exciting Stuff: I’m a video star!

No, not that kind of video. A music video for the song No Surrender, by Derby hip-hop artist JD.with Darren Graffman and Self Taught. Check out JD’s Bandcamp or Youtube for some hard hitting tunes . His lyrics are conscious and real, bringing higher ideals than the objectifying money-worship of too much music of all genres (not to mention the rest of our culture). This video has a point and a story, raising awareness about mental health, the pressures we face to hide our problems and put on a happy face to satisfy the world. You just don’t know who is wearing a mask to hide their suffering…

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A still from Sunday. Photo credit: Evil Unicorn

I got this gig after being recommended, because I fit the bill for the character. Sunday was my first shoot, ever. I’ve never done any acting before (or at least not since Year 9 drama) and definitely never on camera. The guys making the video are hella cool though. They are Evil Unicorn, and they know what they’re doing. The whole reason I agreed straight away to be in this video, was because I’d seen what they made for Simon aka …pr@xis? The Road Less Travelled is a fucking moving video, again with a serious message as well as a raw expression of grief. So I trust this crew to present mental illness and distress with dignity and avoid prurience or cliche.

Shooting a video is fun but hard work. I had no idea what was going to go off when we went to Ryan’s Bar in Derby. The precision of framing shots, the fact that for each shot you are confined to a really tiny space, the sheer work… and then each few-second scene being shot over and over from different angles, different styles, trying to get that perfect emotional gesture down perfectly. I can’t even comprehend the work of editing, especially considering that this video features 3 artists with their stories, as well as my storyline. I’m working with some insanely skilled people, just out of luck, and I am grateful, and so hyped for this video. Also I’m sorry (not very sorry) for spilling a pint over Brent. It was in the pursuit of art, OK? Hopefully it’ll end up in the final cut. Otherwise, I wasted a pint for nothing. (I didn’t even mean to do it. But hey, the camera was rolling.)

Bonus round: Look out for Chris in the video. You can’t see his face. He drove me there, and was a good extra, and sat around while we did multiple takes of everything, and didn’t complain at all. And it was Valentine’s Day. Don’t ever say I’m not a true romantic.

On Saturday we’ll be shooting the denouement, the final emotional crescendo and revelation. I gotta act. I can do that. Heck, I’m hyped for that. Working with a chill, friendly, creative group of people is amazing. I think I’d forgotten that, it’s been so long since I last collaborated with anyone, or even discussed creative work in any real sense. I realise now that’s something I need in my life, and I need to make a serious effort to do it more.

Watch this space: the video for No Surrender should be released at the end of March. It will probably be shown at Five Lamps, Derby. I’m already so excited to see it. Bit nervous; it’s always hard to see the end results of your work, and have it put out there for other folk to judge. But I got faith in this.

Til the release date, listen to some on Soundcloud.

 

Exciting Stuff: I’m a video star!

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