The snappy biting black dog

Last night, I realised something. That in itself isn’t special – I realise a lot of things at night – but I finally understood why I’ve been so reluctant to update this, and it’s a reason which makes me angry. Angry, because I allowed myself to feel scared and worried. Angry because I lost the trust I spent years building – the trust which eventually led me to feeling able to write everything down in a blog. The trust which said, ‘I don’t care what people think’.

It turns out I did care, more than I could have known. It’s not lack of time or energy, it’s not a lack of something to write about. It’s simply… I still feel broken in ways by somebody sharing this blog when they know I write anonymously. When they surely knew that the subject matter was incredibly personal and if I’d wanted it shared I’d have done it myself. Every time I have sat down with the intention to write, I find myself becoming paranoid and shutting my laptop down.

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It all comes back to paranoia. Part of me wants to shake that person; scream in their face. However, I know it’s pointless because the damage has been done and they will never, ever understand how I think and feel, and clearly have no desire to. Personally, I would never share anybody’s mental health tale, but is that just me? Has social media made it so that everyone has a right to poke and pry? I always knew there was a chance somebody would find this blog but I assumed it would be a family member or friend; somebody I knew well, who already knew about my past and would understand at least some of how I communicate and respect that. I never suspected it’d be a virtual stranger who barely knows me, somebody who shouldn’t even have an interest in what I’m doing or saying. It feels horrible; every time I sit down to type there’s a squirmy black worm wrapping itself around my words and reminding me that I’ll never be safe. Since safety is what I’ve always craved and fought for… it’s difficult. I want to ignore it because it’s none of their business what I say, but my brain just doesn’t want to accept that.

I had almost forgotten. I decided to let this blog and the hours of work and difficult words go, and move on. However, maybe I don’t want to move on. Maybe this has always helped me, and I should be doing what’s best for myself regardless of fear.

ImagePart of my need to write regardless is down to an utterly wonderful woman – M – who has been my therapist for a while now. Last week we had our last session and a relapse prevention, and part of the prevention comes down to not letting things build up and explode in panic and irrational behaviour and my way of doing that has always been to put my feelings into words. M has been encouraging me to bring back helpful things into my life and discard the useless; to believe that I’m capable of doing so. When I was first referred, things were… difficult. I had developed full-blown agoraphobia. My flat had become my prison and I only went outside to attend hospital and GP appointments. Stepping out of the front door was the most terrifying thing I could possibly do, and it’s not that I didn’t try; I did, over and over, but just didn’t seem to have the ability. Agoraphobia is a frustrating condition, because there’s absolutely no logic to it. Logically, I knew nothing bad would happen. Logically, I knew that having fellow humans see me wasn’t the end of the world. I like logic and despise anything which is entirely illogical, and so I grew to despise myself and my inability to do normal things like buy a pint of milk. M helped me see that I was reacting to an impossible situation – physically I had been forced indoors by the arthritis, and that gave my brain plenty of time to create fear which didn’t actually exist, so when I became more mobile I found myself stuck between wanting to live a normal-ish life and wanting to hide from everything which seemed so horribly unbearable. It’s a silly thing, really. The world isn’t that scary. My street certainly isn’t. Yet for the longest time I couldn’t even look out of a window without feeling sick at the thought of stepping outside.

I’ve had agoraphobia in the past, but never at this level. I always managed to cope somehow before, putting my mental blinkers on and just barrelling through life as best I can. This time… this time, I found myself leaning against the front door after S had left for work, banging my head against the glass and wanting more than anything to be able to follow him into the world, yet totally unable to. Opening the door was like throwing myself off a high cliff; my body and mind simply said ‘nope’ and shut down.

ImageSlowly, over time, things have improved. I can now go outside alone, although walking to the shop down the road is still difficult and I’ll make excuses not to. I haven’t been near public transport since last Summer. One of the main goals I currently have is to get on a bus; such a simple thing, yet I still don’t feel brave enough. M has helped me understand why I find it so difficult, but it’s still frustrating. I live close to the railway and could go anywhere if I wanted, but all that seems so far away, so impossible. I spent an hour in the garden today, and that was pushing it.

Even now, as I write this, I’m trying to censor myself despite knowing it shouldn’t matter. After all, what’s the worst that can happen – people know I have a personality disorder? It’s not as though I’ve been murdering anyone, I haven’t done anything wrong. That’s what I keep trying to tell myself, but there is always that split part of me laughing at my paranoia and pushing my buttons. I suspect some people will never understand the concept of true paranoia and unrelenting fear and just how horrible it feels; otherwise they’d leave me be.

Heck. I doubt they’re even reading this. I know that in reality I’ll have been long forgotten. If someone were, would it really matter? What are they going to learn about me – that I have a mental illness? That’s nothing special, plenty of people do.

Still. Just typing ‘I still want to self-harm every day’ scares me. I want to be honest. With myself and with the readers who have been incredibly supportive. I know some of you are still looking in, and I appreciate the comments asking if I’m okay after such a long period of silence.

I owe myself that honesty, it’s just difficult untangling it from the snappy biting black dog.

 

It will be sunny one day

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Image from Crystal

Unspoken

Sitting together and so far apart,
a thousand words unsaid and truths unspoken,
I never felt more alone, more out of place,
as I do tonight,
sitting by your side.

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A bottle in my hand and a cigarette in yours,
I open my mouth but no words will form,
it all seems so trivial when I feel this broken,
when you’re sitting so close to me,
yet not here at all.

(c)

Writing about 2008 is more difficult than I ever imagined. On one hand, I almost feel uncomfortable writing about my past relationships now that I’ve been with S for eighteen months; I know he probably wouldn’t mind, but it must be weird for him to know I’m writing about my exes. On the other hand, it’s only now that I can see just how low I sunk; I knew I was falling apart but what I didn’t realise is that I’d totally cracked long before it got to this point. I can see that now. It’s difficult to think about. I acted in ways I’m not proud of and damaged my body god knows how much with handfuls of amitriptyline, tramadol, diazepam, co-codamol, small antidepressant overdoses to get me through the night in a dazed drug-fuelled stupor instead of having to deal with the reality of everything in my life going incredibly wrong. 

O and I… we stopped speaking one day. Conversation turned to bitter arguments and shouting matches. Slammed doors and a smashed laptop. Midnight chases down the street; it was always me doing the running. I just couldn’t face any of it. 

I remember sitting on his swivel office chair, gulping from a bottle of cheap peach schnapps and watching him smoke cigarette after cigarette, sitting on his bed and brooding. He threw me out that night. 

Of course, we got back together. We did a lot of getting back together. 

The show must go on.

All alone, or in two’s,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.

And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.

- Outside The Wall, Pink Floyd

The smell of rose and amber shower gel. Cupboards full of donated plates, huge bags of pasta, Christmas leftovers and fake Pimms I can no longer drink. Twinkling lights on my mother’s Christmas tree, now placed between S’s desk and the huge Marshall amps; decorations passed down from my childhood, now belonging to me. Fudge cake in the fridge, and a shiny new Morphy Richards coffee machine sitting on the worktop. The ridiculously ornate mantelpiece covered in Christmas cards and candles, the bedroom lamps illuminating our Ikea bed and my beautiful dressing table. Roses and mistletoe arranged in glass milk bottles, and shelves filled with Discworld books.

My mother cried. She said this is what she always wanted for me. She admitted she never believed it would happen.

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Christmas was wonderful; quiet and easy, without the usual stress of arranging the tree lights absolutely perfectly to calm my mother’s slight obsessions.

This is all so new to me, and I confess it’s a strange feeling, knowing I’ve reached a major life goal. Where was the fanfare, the confetti, the slaps on the back and heartfelt congratulations? Of course, life doesn’t work like that, and in a way I’m glad. It’s no secret that it’s taken me far longer to reach the basic life-targets than usual, and in a way I’d much prefer nobody knew that, at 28, this is the first time I’ve ever felt safe. The first time I’ve been able to have a relationship without ripping it apart at the seams. The first time I’ve moved out of my mother’s house and known I’ll never go back. Known that I’m not doing it just to escape. The first time I’ve been independent without breaking down and ending up in hospital or riding home in a police car.

In a way, it’s like losing your virginity. That first time you see yourself in a mirror afterwards, and you check your face for signs; of knowledge, of growing up, of, well, sex – finally reaching this point in my life should change me physically. There should be something in my eyes, some sort of peace. A difference. But there isn’t, they’re still the same ice-blue, and I’m almost disappointed by that. I’ve wanted this from the day I realised life wasn’t going to give me a smooth ride, shouldn’t something feel different?

Woman Looking at Reflection

You see, I’m worried I’ll take all this for granted. Becoming too used to a situation is… a problem of mine. Considering how terrified I am of losing everything I hold dear, I have an ability to forget to try. I stop making the effort, because it’s scary thinking of making the next step up. I’m very aware that what I have now – the flat, S, independence – all relies on me not going batshit crazy. For someone who breaks down at least once a year, it’s hard knowing that I have to put the effort in this time if I’m to keep what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I can’t just sit back and let life pile up around me; it’s never worked in the past, so why would it work now?

I know; I’m analysing too much.

I always find someone to bruise and leave behind: the personality of BPD

Trying to access my blog has been a nightmare today; it’s almost as if I’m being punished for putting off writing. I sit in the living room or the kitchen, staring at my laptop and willing the words to be there, but they just aren’t – I don’t particularly want to think about the negative side of things at the moment – and not being able to log in to my account all day has driven me half-crazy. Finally, I have the words… and the fear that I will never get my blog back. Similar issues have been had across WordPress according to their support forums, and my natural cynicism makes me wonder if they’ll ever fix it, or if I’ll be in blog limbo for the rest of my life, unable to download my content or ever update. It’s frustrating.

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I’m going to write anyway, because I received email notification of a comment from one of my old posts – Borderline Personality Disorder – and although I try not to put too much pressure on myself to respond to negativity, it was too tempting to reply, rather than let it go.

I can’t stand people with BPD!!!!!!!!, My soon to be ex-wife has ruined or should I say destroyed everything i built for the last 21 years. I’m retired military, she put me into 25k debt, sold my retirement gift (1972 Plymouth duster), took money from me, calls, texts, emails, hoovers, threatens, plays the victim, has filed PFA’S on me to hide her lies, told a judge she tried to commit suicide 3 times, told that crap to my youngest daughter, lied about 6 surgeries, accused me of killing the dogs when she had possession of the dogs, sold items of mine, harassed county attorney, hide my cell and car keys, twice told my daughter she doesn’t want to be her mom, called and emailed my family members about our sex live, hates my other kids, took all parental rights away from me with her son while we were leaving together, called child protective services on me for child abuse, lied about receiving taxes (my taxes 3.5k) and spent it all, gave her 4k for my daughter’s ortho and she never paid it, keeps getting into my retirement account and changing crap (it’s a federal crime!), every three days would be arguments until i apologized or caved……and so much more……..you people with BPD SHOULD ONLY BE ALOUD TO MARRY EACH OTHER!!!!!! The total destructiveness you bring into peoples/family/loved ones lives is just criminal!!!! Now I have to pick up the pieces; my daughter cuts herself, oldest daughter is on depression meds, claim bankruptcy, and start all over again age the age of 44. You BPD!!!! should never be allowed to date/marry/have kids……I feel so sorry and sick to my heart for all of your next victims…..GOD help them so they won’t be put through this hell I’m going through.

Wow. Where to begin.

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It’s difficult not to take such opinions personally when somebody says that the likes of myself and many of my readers should never be able to date, marry, or have children. Attempting not to take such comments to heart is nigh-on impossible. Those like myself already live with ridiculously low self-confidence and constant snipes from society and the media, without being told these things in shouty capital letters on a blog which – I like to think, judging by many comments I’ve received – has become a safe place to discuss issues like BPD and mental illness without being judged. Although I know there’s no way to stop such comments – and I wouldn’t want to, as everyone is entitled to an opinion – I don’t like to respond to them, as it makes me feel like a victim. The very act of explaining why I behave the way I do gives more ammunition, and I’m not always sure it’s possible to change somebody’s mind on mental illness when their beliefs are so set in stone.

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I will be the first to say that living with someone suffering from BPD must be a nightmare if they are experiencing the fully-fledged out-of-control side of BPD. If they refuse to take their medication, won’t or can’t accept help, or have attempted to get help but the system and/or friends and family have let them down, as is so common with borderline personality disorder. I will never deny that my past behaviour has been controlling and has caused pain to those around me; to lie about that would be to lie about my entire life from puberty onwards.

However, that controlling behaviour has never been out of malice, or acted out with any intent to hurt or cause distress. Describing the BPD mind is an impossible task; but, like everyone else, we have our own distinct personalities. Although outwardly we may appear incredibly bitter and resentful, hell-bent on causing mayhem wherever we go without a single thought for the consequences, inwardly can be an entirely different story. Inside there could be somebody who simply has no control over their actions, and who is lashing out because it’s the only way they know how. It may not be the right way, but it’s their way, and it’s the only thing they have at that moment because their entire being is consumed by all-enveloping fear.

BPD is not a free license to abuse people; when I was first diagnosed, I noticed a lot of resentment around the internet regarding relationships with BPD’ers, and their ability to destroy everything within sight; emotions, furniture, families, friendships, affairs… to the non-BPD partner it seems that everything their boyfriend/girlfriend touches turns to shit. That they get off on controlling others, and seek attention at every available opportunity.

This is a myth.

I have never, ever enjoyed having BPD. Since my symptoms started in puberty, my life has been an uphill struggle to find some form of sane balance. To connect with others without clinging to them. To know who I am, and why I think the way I do. It’s been hard; heartbreaking at times, and a nightmare for everybody around me. I’ve sprinted through life like a whirlwind, grabbing onto others for safety and leaving chaos in my wake. I’ve said and done terrible things. Threatened to harm myself when I had no intention. Lied. Cheated. Stolen. Caused undeniable pain and, yes, abused others.

Of this, I will never be proud.

However, I have made every effort to change, and gain control over the tangle of self-abuse and denial. Comments like the one I quoted above, and many I have read online, seem to suggest that abandoning those with BPD is the only solution. When I was first diagnosed, my mother bought Stop Walking On Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger. After she read it, her suggestion to me was that I didn’t look at the book, as there were heavy hints that walking away from somebody suffering from BPD is an easy option. I haven’t read the book myself, so she may have been exaggerating, but it wouldn’t surprise me. BPD is a mental illness like any other, but it seems acceptable to cast suffers off with “they’re a cruel person” or “it’s not worth it”. Or, as above, suggest that we should never marry or even date.

I have worked hard to get this far. I’m twenty-eight in ten days, and there was a time when reaching eighteen seemed impossible. Admittedly, I find it difficult to recognise any achievement, but I know my life is massively different to how it used to be. Medication has the anxiety and panic attacks mostly under control, and stops me going too far into depression. Without the anxiety, I don’t overreact, I don’t convince myself that everybody I love despises me. I don’t believe that the world would be a better place if I were dead.

So, people with BPD can change. They can grasp some control, if they work at it. We’re not hopeless cases.

I called this post “the personality of BPD”, because the comment above angered me. It totally disregarded any of his partner’s personality, and attributed all her behaviour to borderline personality disorder. Just like anybody else, people with BPD can be cruel, regardless of their condition. They can also be kind, although sometimes the kindness is muffled under sheer panic. Somebody living with BPD is not the whole of the condition; they’re still the person you know, with all that person’s foibles, beliefs, experiences and knowledge. BPD may be a massive part of their lives, but it doesn’t entirely consume; they’re in there somewhere and not everything they say or do is dictated by BPD.

I don’t know if this post makes much sense; my head is everywhere right now. There’s a lot to write about.

 

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This is yesterday

I’ve been trying to write a post for the past week or so, with no success. Many have been written in my head – as I’m tossing and turning in bed next to S, trying to sleep through another fibro flare – but when it comes to making myself sit down at the little Ikea table in the kitchen and get those thought out onto the screen, I just can’t do it. So much has changed recently, and my mind is in a constant state of bemused flux; after years – decades- of absolutely everything being out of my control it’s near-on impossible to get my head around it all. I expected it to be difficult, but I don’t think this level of confusion was anything predictable. The excitement of finally standing up on my own feet masked it all for a little while, but now that things are settling a little and a routine of sorts is being established, those little niggles and worries are seeping back. Minor issues. Small things. Nothing important, and nothing which can stop the happiness I still feel at finally being free, but enough to remind me that I can make as many changes as I want and fight as hard as I can but it’ll never be easy.

Which is why I’m taking yet another big step and – against every fiber of my being – have made an appointment to see a new psychiatrist, almost two years after my last very brief foray back into the mental health system.
Like everything, I did mean to write something about that decision last week, and it was briefly mentioned in reply to a couple of comments on my last post, but – again, like everything else – I’ve been putting it off. I’ve always been open of my mistrust surrounding the UK mental health system; past experience has taught me nothing to convince me it’s worth feeling otherwise. While going back on the staunchest of decisions and beliefs is a classic symptom of BPD, I’m pretty convinced that isn’t the case this time. I sat on the decision for months, considering the options available and finally coming to the conclusion that if I want this to last – this normality I’ve found – I can’t go it alone, and although S is beyond wonderful and living together has boosted my self-esteem a lot, there’s still only so much I can speak to him about. I trust him implicitly  but I’ve spent enough of my life being a burden on others and I’m constantly aware that I can’t spend our relationship putting pressure on S to care for me.

The appointment isn’t just about that, though. It’s about everything. Every last little thing since that day in early puberty when something snapped inside my mind.

Over the years, all the things I’ve experienced have fragmented into a thousand threads of craziness. All match yet… don’t quite fit together. The ends are frayed and loose, tangled around each other in a huge knot of confusion. For a long time it was easy to accept that would never change and I would spend my whole life walking around with voices in my head and the inability to stick with anything worthwhile without sabotaging it. Comfort – even terrifying comfort – can be hard to leave behind. I’ve made so many mistakes; walked away from hundreds of chances to better my life, slept around in the vain hope of finding somebody who took all the pain away, thrown pills down my throat just so I wouldn’t have to feel, denied myself even life’s very simplest pleasures for no discernible reason at all. I’ve walked away from treatment. Fought against everybody who tried to help, convinced they were all part of the problem and could never be the solution.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make; not in the least. I’ve been in and out of the mental health system – more in than out, especially in my teens – more times than I care to count, and so far there’s been very little positive gleaned from the experience. My mother, she calls it damage. She says she sees the damage years of questions and let-downs and tablets and therapy has caused; can see it in my face. In my eyes. In the way I react whenever the system is mentioned.

In truth, it scares me. The thought of sitting on yet another cheap NHS-issue chair opposite a psychiatrist who knows nothing of the more subtle details… it’s terrifying. I’ve come so far, and I’m painfully aware that the slightest thing can bring my world crashing down like it always has before. Despite appearances I’ve never been strong – not in the least – and yet another failure is something I simply can’t afford anymore. Life now… I know I keep saying it, but it’s changed and I confess to being tired of change. As wonderful as everything is living with S, I want to stay here for a while. In this place. Where everything makes sense for once. I don’t want to make big plans, or look too far into the future. I just want this. Now. Here. Safety.

Yet, change has to happen.

I’m stubborn; and I’m still not quite ready to give into the crazy.

Last stop: this town

“You know, we’ve spent every day together for a month now. Are you bored of me yet?” 

It was said in jest – I still refuse to be clingy with S – but, as always, there was a nugget of truth in my words; a small fear I covered up with a nervous giggle. Since S and I first discussed the possibility of moving in together over a year ago, I’ve worried that spending so much time in each others pockets will cause some sort of breakdown between us – we’re both so used to our own space – but so far it seems to be working. I don’t want to question why it’s going so well, in case I somehow jinx it, and going well it is. I’m still in some sort of weird denial; I keep expecting to wake up tomorrow in the little white bed in my old bedroom, with the sheets covered in loose tobacco and ash, my head fuzzy from co-codamol overdoses. All that feels so far away now, yet too close for comfort. Life doesn’t work this way for me, it never has. It’s never been so good. I don’t think I can be blamed for worrying, can I?

We’re still living in chaos, but it’s a strange, enjoyable sort of chaos. The large hallway of the flat is filled with boxes, as is the living room and temporary bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom still have no floor coverings. It’s a bit of an awkward situation; we’re renting the flat from a friend’s mother, who lost her father a few months ago. Her mother is in a nursing home with dementia and arthritis. I don’t think she was quite ready for us to move in, or maybe she forgot when we were supposed to be taking over the flat, but the bedroom is still filled with their belongings – paintings, books, old clothes – which is starting to cause a problem. Perhaps I’m overreacting as usual, but it’s frustrating that we can’t move in ‘properly’. I want to unpack, I want to see our belongings together so it all feels real. I want to sleep in the bedroom with the big bay window and built-in wardrobes, instead of a small room which the bed can just about fit in. I want to be able to make this our home. We’ve been here a month, and the bills haven’t even been sorted out yet.

I’m probably the only person in the world who wants to pay bills.

On the whole though, it’s wonderful. I always imagined I’d end up on my own in a cheap bedsit, living off cigarettes and peanut butter from the jar. If I’d stayed in school long enough to have a yearbook – if we even had yearbooks in the UK – under my picture it would have said “most likely to end up alone, eaten by cockroaches”. Honestly, I never believed that life would throw me the lifeline it has. That it would change so dramatically.

On the subject of change, everything has been shaken up on the medical side of things. I saw my GP on the 9th, determined to finally make my point about the way I’ve been treated; or not treated, rather. Moving out has given me the motivation to stand up for myself, if only because I don’t want to burden S with all my problems. Now we live together – I can’t stop repeating that we live together, it’s still so unreal – I can no longer hide all those freak-outs and breakdowns from him, and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like my carer rather than my boyfriend. Living with J taught me just how difficult it is to be constantly bombarded by mental illness, and S doesn’t need my craziness hanging over him. Neither do I.

So I sat, and explained to my GP just how difficult things have been.

This is probably going to take longer than usual“; and take longer it did. He listened though, and made all the right noises; nodding when I explained how let down I feel by the treatment I’ve received from the specialists I’ve seen recently.

Physio has been worse than useless, referring me to the Biomechanics Clinic, then when the appointment finally came ’round after being cancelled once and pushed months ahead, they referred me back to physio. Told me to keep doing the exercises on my foot, regardless of how painful it is. Told me there was nothing really wrong except for a bit of tendonitis. I can’t walk. I can’t sleep. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I’ve had gallstones. I don’t think I can take the constant backwards and forwarding anymore. I can’t take the tiredness, the lying awake at night wanting to cut my foot off. I’m sick of it all”.

He looked at me. Put his head to the side, and leaned forwards.

Has the anxiety and depression become worse?

So it all came flooding out. How I simply can’t cope anymore; with the pain, with the panic attacks, with the hospital visits and disappointment. I can’t pretend that things have been rosy over the past few months; the combination of medical let-downs and moving house has sent me somewhat over the edge. Not enough to truly worry anybody; just enough for me to know that things aren’t working properly. My brain… it had become tired. Cynical. I think I’d given up in many ways.

And I didn’t want that, not when I have this chance to assert my independence and live the way I’ve always needed to. For the first time since I can remember, I have a little potential. Not much, just enough to reassure myself that I do have a place in the world.

And the fibromyalgia? Joint pain? We need to deal with that too. I’m going to put you on Cymbalta; it’s an antidepressant and works for anxiety much like Cipralex did, but it’s also licensed for nerve pain. Cipralex just doesn’t seem to be working for you anymore. You need to stop taking it, wait two days, then start the Cymbalta. That way there shouldn’t be too much of a gap where you’re without some form of medication for the depression and panic attacks. I’m also giving you Arcoxia, which should be more effective than Celebrex at controlling the pain. Finally, I know you’re tired of referrals but I think you should see orthopedics. I’d have referred you sooner but with your history I thought rheumatology would be more suitable. We’ll do some blood tests, to check for RA again, and see where we go from there. See me again in a month, and we’ll look at how you’re doing on the new tablets.”

I left the surgery with a prescription, an appointment with orthopedics for the end of the month, and a small sense of hope. Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve felt that hope and been let down, so I refuse to get too excited by the possibility of finally seeing some improvement.

I’ve been taking the new meds for six days now. Yesterday I began to feel the real effects of Cymbalta; fuzzy head, dry mouth, misplaced energy, and bizarre dreams. However, I haven’t panicked, and the dark mood has lifted a little. Taking a new antidepressant after years of Cipralex working perfectly is a little scary – I’ve relied on it for so long – but so far everything seems okay. Nausea, but no vomiting. Stomach pains, but not unbearable. Most importantly, the pain has decreased dramatically, to the point where I can now walk without a stick. I’m still stiff, and I still stumble, but I can walk to the shops; a massive improvement.

Living with S is everything I had hoped for, and more. We cook together. He brings me cups of coffee and rolls cigarettes for me when I’m tired. We have a huge leather sofa with a chaise longue. A low Ikea double bed with new sheets and a king-size duvet. A communal garden – currently waterlogged – and neighbours who say hello when I bump into them. We live in a village now; still in the same town, but nicer somehow. Slower. Less stressful. There’s a grocers. A butcher and a fish shop. Spar. A hairdressers and a shop which sells frozen yoghurt with fruit in.

I know we won’t be here forever. Renting is probably our only option for the rest of our lives – we simply can’t afford a house and probably never will – but for the time being, I’m in my own little paradise. A place I can be myself, without pressure to perform and be ‘normal’. Somewhere I can exist without feeling I should always be doing more to be like everyone else. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that I’m getting on well with my mother. We speak regularly on the phone, and I visit at least once a week. She now agrees that we needed to be apart. That I needed my freedom.

I have freedom.

You don’t know how amazing that feels.