I confess

The drugs just aren’t doing it for me,
chemical sleep has lost its appeal
and I confess, I considered tonight
that it might be easier just not to feel.

To slip away, to take a bow,
Admit defeat and fall from my grace
and would you miss me, would you notice;
how long would it take to forget my face?

You forgot me once, you can do it again,
after all, this is only a release
breaking free from the prison we built together
in the hope, of maybe, one night of peace.

I confess, this is serious,
and if I had the strength I would leave tonight
I wish I was brave, that I wouldn’t miss you
that this time I could really give up the fight.

An empty bottle in front of me,
and pills I know I’ll never take
just further proof of my personal failings
evidence of the depression I could never shake.

Another scar to my collection,
a canvas I paint to remind me of you
to prove this reality was never a nightmare
but a waking hell, which I’m still going through.

I confess, it would be so easy,
Just a slip of the hand, just one step too far
but I’m not brave, I feel too afraid
to let myself go, to reopen these scars.

Yet I fantasise of how easy it would be,
for you to live your life without me there
I confess I think of setting you free
sometimes it’s the only way that ever seems fair.

If I left today, would you notice?
Would you realise, I did this for you?
If I slipped away past an exit sign,
would you see it as failure, or something I needed to do?

I try to remember every word you ever said,
the times you loved me, the times you were sweet
I confess, I want to forget
to make this easier for me to leave.

But how can I go when you hold me like that;
when you whisper so quietly only I can hear?
I confess, you keep me from dying,
from collapsing under the weight of my fears.

(c)

“Suicide” is a word I don’t like typing. It’s such a final solution, and the word itself makes me feel uncomfortable about the actions I’ve taken in the past. I may occasionally mention my flirts with causing my own death, but I try not to go into much detail because, in truth, I’m ashamed.

I’m ashamed to know I even tried, mostly over such trivial things. New colleges and threats of break-ups. Arguments with my mother. They seem such petty reasons but back then I couldn’t judge whether an incident was serious or minor, and everything felt like a horrific attack on everything I am. The panic and psychosis (for there was psychosis; hallucinations and imagined conversations) drove me into a ball of fear and confusion and, somehow, I decided that suicide was the only logical answer to a world of horror. 

Last week, a man lay down on the train tracks between my house and Z’s, and killed himself. I heard the sirens and saw sketchy details appear on Facebook, but I still can’t let myself accept that somebody was in so much torment that they felt the only way to solve it was to climb over the barriers as traffic waited at the crossing, and wait for the train to hit; somebody just a couple of roads away from where I was sitting was going through something most people never – thankfully – have to experience.

I find myself wondering what he was like; why he felt he had to take that step, and do something so damn final. I wish I’d had the chance to know him, somehow.

In absentia

It’s a strange feeling. Sitting on the sofa, listening to 4 Non Blondes, drinking coffee, and realising I finally made it. Knowing it took what felt like forever to get here, and trying to accept that I now have my own life. My own rules. My own independence.

Neglecting my blog, and everyone involved… it hasn’t felt good. The occasional tinge of guilt sneaks up on me, knowing that so many people have supported me for over a year and are still commenting despite my absence. However, sitting in the front room and seeing my belongings mixed with S’s… I honestly never believed it would happen, and real life has to take precedence.

Yes, we moved in together. I escaped; and not only do I have freedom for the first time in years, but I also have access to my own finances for the first time in my entire life. I got the bus into town two days ago – a feat in itself, considering how long it’s been since I felt brave enough to use public transport – and checked my bank account. Seeing money in my account for the first time since receiving my stepfather’s inheritance… you don’t know how amazing it feels. Knowing that, for the first time in twenty seven years, I am entirely independent. For the first time, my life is my own and not controlled by anybody but myself.

The past couple of weeks have been an unbelievable nightmare, culminating in a full-force BPD freak-out where I cried, screamed, howled, and eventually called a taxi to take me to S’s. I couldn’t cope with anything at all, and I admit there were a couple of situations where it looked like I was going to lose it entirely. I hit myself in the face. Toyed with a razor and a pair of scissors. Pulled a chunk of hair out, just to feel anything but the horrible pain inside of total loss of control. Stopped eating entirely for a week, living on strong coffee and the last of my dope stash, codeine; anything I could get my hands on to numb the fear just for a short while.

In truth, I don’t know how I got through it all. Trying to explain just how wrong everything seemed to go…it’s impossible. You can’t put such things into words.

You see, it wasn’t just the move stressing me out – although it really didn’t help – and my habit of not being able to cope with more than one thing at once really didn’t help. Quite why I decided to stop taking my medication for a few days, I’m not sure… I should know better, and can only assume that BPD was telling me I’d be better off without them. It’s happened often in the past but I thought I was over it, and had more sense now. Obviously not.

Within two days I’d gone back to the old ways. Panic. Everything was a disaster. The world was ending. Paranoia, beyond belief. Constant – and I mean constant – tears. The need for reassurance. Grabbing onto anything to survive. Laying awake at night hearing the slight whisper of the voices creeping in. Shadows and movement just out of my vision. Feeling victimised by things which hadn’t even happened.

I don’t know how I used to live like that.

Along with everything else I was trying to deal with – the return of fibro pain from not taking Lyrica or Celebrex/Naproxen, the tendonitis getting much, much worse, my mother freaking out over every little thing connected to the move – I finally got to the Biomechanics appointment which had been moved around so many times; I thought I’d never get there. Waiting was pointless though, as nothing was achieved. In fact, I may as well have stayed at home and abandoned any hope of help.

After months of waiting, after being discharged from physio after nothing helped, all the appointment involved was being told I need to do exercises to help the pain in my ankle and foot. In other words, I waited months – and worried – simply to be told exactly what I was told at physio. Told exactly what I already knew. I tried explaining that I’d had to stop the exercises since they were so painful but was simply told to do them regardless. Then, I was referred back to physio.

What is it about me? Why does nobody take me seriously?

I pondered this for a while after the appointment. There’s no denying that I’ve been let down by the NHS a ridiculous number of times; pushed from pillar to post, sent from one specialist to another, and always been made to feel like more of a nuisance than a genuine patient.

So I sat, and thought, and came to perhaps a controversial conclusion; that my past history of mental illness is affecting my treatment. I know this sounds paranoid – and it’s understandable that perhaps the idea of doctors refusing to treat me due to mental illness is something many would pooh-pooh as ridiculous – but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

You see, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that many see me as a faker. A chancer. Someone who goes to the doctors just to get attention and treatment I don’t need. Munchausen’s syndrome comes to mind.

It’s possible that some of my symptoms are psychosomatic; in fact, I know some are. Others however… you can’t fake them. It’s impossible to fake things like hair loss, swelling joints, jaundice, constant coldsores, endless urinary infections, weight loss, tendonitis, crunching knees and fingers, sciatica… all these things are real, physical symptoms, and have been proven to exist. So I can’t be faking it; doctors themselves have confirmed a myriad of symptoms and illnesses.

Yet… I’m not getting the treatment I’m entitled to.

Last week, I discovered something I’d never known, and it’s only served to confirm my suspicions. I spoke to my mother about accessing my medical records – she agrees that I’m not being treated fairly – and I found out that when I was seventeen, I was sectioned.

I never knew. Nobody told me. I assumed I was simply being ‘kept an eye on’ when I was stuck in hospital after a failed overdose, but in reality the truth was kept from me to protect me. I can understand why, but still… it’s a lot to come to terms with. I’ve always held onto the belief that no matter how crazy I’ve been, I’ve never been sectioned. Somehow that belief helped me cope. Now everything’s been turned upside down. A lot of my life has been a lie.

It’s a weird thought. I was sectioned, and never knew.

It makes me wonder what else I was never told. Just what my past involved. I know for a lot of my teens I was out of it, and couldn’t take much in except for the difficulties and problems I experienced, and I know I was often trapped in some form of psychosis; living my life in a bubble created to protect myself. There’s so much of my teens I can’t remember – medication, craziness, lack of sleep, lack of food, drugs, drink… it all blocked out memories – and it’s entirely possible that things happened I wasn’t aware of.

So much of my life has been pieced together from flashes of memory; some of which may not even be real. In truth, I don’t know half of what I’ve lived through. I just… locked it away somewhere.

They should have told me. I had a right to know.

Right now, I’m trying not to think about it too much. I have an appointment with my GP on the 9th, and I’m planning on talking about all my worries. I’m really not up to it right now – a lot needs to be done to the flat – but this needs to be sorted once and for all.

Out Of My Life

I saw J on Friday afternoon. Spotted his distinctive bright green velvet jacket out of the corner of my eye whilst chatting to my hairdresser. First impressions were that he looked sick; sick as in manic, and clearly off his medication again. I watched him waving his arms around while he rocked back and forth on his heels and talked to a man I’d never met before, his head freshly shaved under his wide-brimmed black hat. I remember that hat; it’s the one he bought and wore when he was starting to get psychotic. You see, J always wore hats, and very rarely took them off; even indoors. I assumed it was a security thing.

I felt a little sad. J put me through a lot, but I did sort of hope that after the last time he was in hospital – he’s been sectioned six or seven times – he’d finally take some sort of control, or at least his family would step in for once and make sure he took the medication, or at least stayed away from the conspiracy-theorists and criminals he spent the majority of his time with. I’m still unconvinced by the bipolar diagnosis – J fits perfectly into the definition of a true narcissist – but it’s nothing to do with me now. Did I somehow think that my attempts at helping would change almost twenty years of psychotic episodes and violent outbursts? I suppose I hoped it would, but clearly it made no difference at all.

 

A few years ago, we were both in the same place, mentally. He was running around inventing grand schemes to make millions, and I was lying on the sofa, a joint in one hand and a bottle of morphine in the other. He was snorting experimental party drugs and screaming at me if I spoke too loud or accidentally knocked something over. I was hiding in the house, terrified to go outside. He left for days on end, with no clue as to where he was going, leaving me with no gas, electricity, and – sometimes – no door key. I slept in his car rather than have to be in the same bed as him, because he didn’t wash for weeks on end, not even brush his teeth. Once we moved into the house his parents bought, I believed things would change. I stopped the morphine and forced myself to get help from my GP. When J was sectioned after shaving all his hair off and taking a Bible into a pub – shouting about Islam and the EDL – I promised to help him. I tried. I failed.

I watched him, with his scruffy beard and the brown cord trousers he wore every day, and wondered why our lives took such dramatic turns on the day I left him. J is forty two now, and still stands in the street with his odd mannerisms, wearing poorly-matched charity shop clothes and, obviously, still not washing. He’s still in the cycle of taking medication then, when he feels it isn’t working anymore, refusing all medical help and ending up right back where he started.

Despite everything I feel about our time together, I do feel sorry for him. He never had the support of a family who were involved with his psychosis. They just pretended it didn’t happen, and never visited him in hospital; preferring to go on holiday to Venice instead. He has nobody to make sure he takes the medication or at least has somewhere safe to be when he loses it. His ‘friends’ are all ex-cons, patients from the various mental hospitals, or religious and conspiracy fanatics. He has never been given responsibility – his parents willingly throwing money at his wild schemes and places to live – and I don’t think anyone has ever suggested therapy.

Sadly… J just wasn’t a nice person. His bipolar or whatever had nothing to do with that. Mental illness or no, he’d still have been a dick. Which is why I stayed in that seat, surrounded by the smell of peroxide, and eventually looked away. He’s not part of my life anymore. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he ever entered my mind.

 

 

They’re all out to get you, once again.

“For a long time, I lived in an imaginary world. A world were everybody was nice and respected me for my invented talents and very unlikely beauty. As a child, I often spoke these fantasies out loud and the habit carried on into my teens, leading to a child psychiatrist assuming I heard voices. I didn’t; I just confined myself in a fantasy world to the point where I believed it all. I didn’t live in the real world, but in a false reality. What happened, only happened in my head. At some point, the childish fantasies became a psychosis and that’s when everything changed in my happy little world; I invented slights and insults, and became convinced that, rather than adoring me, everyone loathed the very ground I walked on. Being bullied in secondary school pushed me further into the fake reality and only confirmed (in my addled brain) my suspicions that everyone was conspiring against me.”

Psychosis is impossible to explain to anybody who’s never experienced it first-hand. Wikipedia describes psychosis as an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality“, and given that my fantasy world was as far removed from reality as it’s possible to be, that’s what I’ll call it.

Of course, I don’t remember what was real and what was simply imagined, so I can’t accurately describe exactly how my psychosis panned out. Although I now realise that certain torments and threats were entire fantasy, I sometimes wonder just how much of my life as I see it is just an illusion. I confess… I don’t like feeling that so much of my life was a lie.

I can remember sitting on my bed in the room I used to sleep in, and feeling convinced the entire world could see me. Not through cameras, but in their heads; I don’t know, some sort of telepathy. They saw me and judged me on everything I said and did. Sometimes I got dressed under the bedcovers, worried about everyone seeing me naked and laughing at my body. I would turn photographs and posters to the wall in case they were somehow a way of people watching my every move. At one time, I had hundreds of posters and, when stressed, would refuse to look at them in case they knew that I knew.

At no point did the thought occur to me that none of this was real or strange. It felt so normal that I never questioned it; you see what’s in front of your eyes, and what I saw may have been removed from reality but I saw it all the same, and had no reason to be suspicious I was living in a false world. If you see a cup on a table, you don’t think, “hey, is this real?”. You just accept that the cup and table are there. I accepted that the things I thought and believed were there too.

I’ve written before about how happy my years in primary school were, but I neglected to mention a few problems I had along the way. On the whole it was an amazing experience, and one I’ll always cherish –  I can still smell the cut grass on the school field which signaled it was summer – but it wasn’t always the rosy-tinted childhood I make it out to be. I suppose I haven’t felt ready to talk until now.

I have never got on with numbers. Basic arithmetic is the best I can manage, and I’ve done a lot of avoiding maths in my life. I still don’t have my maths GCSE; I wasn’t even competent enough to take the exam. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, something just stops the numbers processing properly. It’s like they turn to mush in my brain as soon as I try to solve all but the most simple problems. In the first years of primary school this wasn’t a problem because even I could understand that 2 + 2 = 4. What I didn’t reckon on was being introduced to basic fractions and decimals when I joined the junior classes. I couldn’t process them. They made no sense. I couldn’t accept that there was any rhyme or reason to any of it, and I began to panic. I started needing to pee all the time, and often used it as an excuse to escape to the toilets next to the classroom and hide from the numbers.

This is where things get cloudy. I have memories, but they may not be real. I have brief flashes, but I’m not entirely convinced I didn’t invent the whole thing.

All I remember is those toilets. Three small stalls and two sinks opposite. Tracing paper toilet roll. And somebody – somebody male – in those toilets with me.

His legs are all I can picture. Dark trousers and black shoes. That’s it. His legs. Nothing else.

It’s only a fragment of memory. A tiny second out of twenty-seven years of life. In the grand scheme of things it barely exists. So why does it follow me around? I just know that toilet stall is somehow important. I just don’t want to consider why.

The last two years of juniors is when I started retreating into myself. I started spending time alone on the playing field, picking daisies and throwing them. Once, I fell over and badly cut my hand on a piece of glass which had been sticking out of the ground. Instead of going to the teacher on duty, I stood and watched the blood. For a long time. I remember kids crowding around me, and a teacher wrapping a bandage around my hand.

By the age of eleven, I was inventing scenarios in my head which never occurred. I began to tell ridiculous lies; lies which were so obvious yet I was convinced I was actually speaking the truth. It’s hard to explain to somebody who’s never experienced it. Even though what I claimed was clearly impossible, as the words came out of my mouth I believed them entirely. When the bullying started, my beliefs became more and more outlandish; to the outsider it must have sounded like I was trying to make myself sound cooler than I am, but in reality I had no such plans. All of it – the invented boyfriends, imagined situations – were 100% real in my head. The people I created lived out their lives and, when something bad happened to them, I felt sorry for them. When one died, I cried in the history classroom, putting my head down on the desk and sobbing into my black blazer.

This is all so difficult to talk about. You just can’t explain something which was never there.

Sometimes the walls moved in one me. Loud bangs would shoot off in my head, as though there was a gun going off inside my ear. Music played when there was none. I saw figures standing just out of my vision, always watching me. I stayed up late every night, worried that somebody or something would grab me if I fell asleep, and I would stare at the reflections in my tiny bedroom television, convinced I could see people moving inside. Not once did I consider that tiny people inside my television might be quite an unusual event.

I knew, without a doubt, that my every thought was being broadcast somewhere. Where, I never quite decided; most likely to my enemies, the people who hated me most and who were waiting for me to put a foot wrong so they could point and laugh at my total inability to fit in with the social norms.

By far the worst aspect of being bullied was knowing that two desks behind me I was inevitably the subject of a caustic bitching session. This bit was undoubtedly real. I did experience name-calling and shoving in the corridors, but that wasn’t anywhere near the feeling of being totally ignored. I had a handful of friends but my increasingly wacky behavior – muttering to myself, writing poetry on wardrobe doors and turning up to class with my white shirt sleeves soaked in blood from where I’d hacked at myself with a razor – quickly drove them away and although we still hung out at break, I was suddenly being invited to a lot fewer sleepovers.

I skipped class often. Nobody ever missed me and I often whiled away hours in the toilets near the R.E classroom, locked securely in a stall far away from the door. I’d hear girls come in and chat about the usual mundane things. Once, I was sitting on the toilet seat and writing in the back of my English book when I caught my name in their conversation.

Yeah, she’s such a freak“.

From this point on, every word said to me was taken as a criticism on my worth as a human being. I scrutinised every conversion – looking for insults and judgement – and found that everyone, every single person I met, hated me. Total strangers knew my entire life story and looked down on me for failing to succeed, and even my own family were conspiring against me.. When my mother sent me to the child psychiatrist after I was found harming myself in school, I saw it as a direct attack. I was perfectly fine, she was the one with delusions.

Every session with the psychiatrist, I sat on a blue-cushioned chair and stared at the clock on the wall above his head. I counted the ticks. I looked at his ratty face and imagined throwing him out of the window just so he’d stop asking me how everything made me feel. I felt fine. I was okay. The world was fucked-up, not me, and I’d cope much better if everyone just stopped interfering with my life, thank you very much.

One day, he asked me if I heard voices. I answered honestly; yes, I did. And yes, they suggested bad things.

The voices… they’re not like a real voice heard inside your head. They’re more like thoughts – you don’t hear a thought, you think it – which occasionally pop up and, because it’s just a thought, you believe it.

The bad things? Killing myself. Killing my classmates. Going into  school with a kitchen knife and forcing the bullies to take me seriously for once, rather than laughing and making sly comments when I put my hand up in class. Once, I took the knife – a small one – in my schoolbag but wasn’t brave enough to use it.

I never thought that I was anything other than normal.

The psychiatrist said I was schizophrenic. I was sent to PL. They said I wasn’t. Nobody seemed to know why I was so removed from everything, other than I was experiencing some sort of post-traumatic psychosis. In one of the many counselling and therapy sessions, I was asked if my father had ever sexually abused me. I said no, of course he hasn’t; my dad may be some things, but he never laid a finger on me.

Nobody ever asked if someone else had abused me, though.

One lovely blog award, and some big confessions

lollipopsandrazorblades and lifeonaxis1 have both kindly nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award; a nice surprise on a day where I’m coughing up my lungs and getting through boxes of tissues whilst suffering with the virus from hell. Seriously, I haven’t been this unwell in a long time, and I’m cursing everybody I came into contact with last week. I’ve spent the past two days in bed, wanting to curl up and die. That the virus coincided with my little slip up is a particularly frustrating coincidence; I suspect it’ll take some time to recover.

Anyway, I owe lollipopsandrazorblades a huge thank you for my nomination; check out her blog for an amazing and humbling amount of honesty. Also, massive thanks to lifeonaxis1; she’s never been nominated for an award before and shares my reservations about award posts. Visit her blog, because she has some amazing words to say about the mental health system.

The Rules of Acceptance:

Thank the person/people who nominated you and link back to them in your post.

Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.

Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire.

Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know and link back to them.

.

Seven things

Writing seven things about myself is always difficult; when you write with the intention of being totally honest, there’s very little to confess to. What could be shocking or surprising enough? With that in mind, I’m going to aim for the mundane.

1. I realised today that I’m entirely stuck in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Not in the trendy “LOL I’m so retro” way, but in a nostalgic way I can’t bear to let go of. Despite everything which has happened, I did have a happy childhood until depression and anxiety took over. I grew up in a semi-detached house in quite a suburban area, and although my mother was possessive, I was happy with what I had. I remember long sunny days in the garden or cul-de-sac down the road, riding my sister’s yellow scooter and visiting the family next door to play on the Master Station with my friend Daniel. I have amazing memories of running across my primary school field in a blue-and-white checked dress and lace-topped ankle socks, throwing grass and laughing.

I know most have rose-tinted memories of their childhoods, but because I was so prone to curling into myself emotionally (I’ve always been shy), I found beauty and fascination in the most simple things. Primary school was an incredibly happy time for me, and I look back on it with fondness. Not only do I look back, but I spent a lot of time thinking and, most nights, dreaming of it. I watch old TV programmes from that time and listen to the music I heard as a kid, just to recreate the feeling of pure uncomplicated living. It’s been a long time since life was uncomplicated.

Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t a boy.

2. I love Erasure. And Bronski Beat. 80’s synth-pop and New Wave have always made me happier than anything else can, and I refuse to apologise for it. None of this is a secret or unknown, but wonderfully naff nonetheless.

3. Although I smoke cannabis for pain, I also sometimes smoke so much that I pass out; just to calm my fears. I know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding mental illness and dope, and all I can say is that I’ve known people who’ve smoked it all their lives and never become mentally ill. I’ve known others who have a diagnosed disorder such as bipolar who use it to control their manic phases. On the flipside, my ex, J, got no benefit from smoking weed; he was a stereotypical pothead and didn’t seem to understand that his bipolar got much, much worse when he smoked, and calmed down significantly when he stopped.

I wholeheartedly believe that all drugs are dangerous if used incorrectly, but if you treat the majority of them with respect, perhaps they can be a good thing. I don’t see a difference between prescribed medication and illegal drugs; after all, morphine can be diagnosed for back pain, but heroin (the same thing) is illegal. Codeine kills thousands of people a year. Addiction to prescription drugs is higher than ever, if statistics are to be believed, yet these addictions are far more accepted by society than addiction to illegal drugs.

Cannabis stops me having panic attacks. Stops them dead, with just a few tokes. Meanwhile, diazepam takes time to work and is highly addictive. Can kill you. So if I choose to use a class-B drug rather than benzo’s… is that so wrong?

But yes. Sometimes I smoke for the hell of it.  Because I like it.

4. For a long time, I lived in an imaginary world. A world were everybody was nice and respected me for my invented talents and very unlikely beauty. As a child, I often spoke these fantasies out loud and the habit carried on into my teens, leading to a child psychiatrist assuming I heard voices. I didn’t; I just confined myself in a fantasy world to the point where I believed it all. I didn’t live in the real world, but in a false reality. What happened, only happened in my head. At some point, the childish fantasies became a psychosis and that’s when everything changed in my happy little world; I invented slights and insults, and became convinced that, rather than adoring me, everyone loathed the very ground I walked on. Being bullied in secondary school pushed me further into the fake reality and only confirmed (in my addled brain) my suspicions that everyone was conspiring against me.

I foresee a blog post on this subject.

5. At the height of my bulimia, I ate food from the rubbish bin in the kitchen, shovelling damp biscuits into my mouth then throwing them up in a green plastic tub I kept especially for the purpose. I threw up in plastic zip-lock bags and hid them under my bed, surrounded by empty crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers. I ate, then drank handfuls of water from the bathroom tap so I was as close as possible to the toilet. Sometimes, I’d vomit when I’d only eaten a small handful of carrots, terrified of the calories seeping into my veins somehow.

6. Once, I had sex with a man who was in his mid-forties, because my ex-fiancé told me he wanted me to sleep with someone else. The whole situation is somewhat convoluted so I won’t go into every single detail. My ex-fiancé and I were fighting constantly, having drifted apart sexually and emotionally, and he started getting close to another woman; Ally, who he now has two children with. I took the phrase “sleep with other people” to mean “I want to sleep with other people”, and, in stupid desperation to hold onto a decaying relationship, I hung my engagement ring on a chain around my neck, swallowed what little I had of my pride, and ended up in bed with a balding man with a constant runny nose and the inability to finish without jacking off over my chest. I remember staring at a slight damp spot on his bedroom ceiling and realising I had reached the lowest moment of my life.

7. Every morning when I wake up, I want desperately to be back in my dreams. Not because they’re happy or interesting, but because they’re so familiar. Since starting on antidepressants I’ve had incredibly lucid dreams which all take place in the same fictional town. Over the years I’ve explored houses and run down streets which are more like home to me than any place in the waking world.

It’s difficult to nominate other bloggers for this award, since I’ve already nominated so many. The following links are to blogs I read for their honest content and because, in different ways, they inspire me.
The Secret World of S / ryoko861 / May I Be… / bipolarmuse / Jacqui Talbot / NZ Cate / My Ox is a Moron / whereimstaying / Resiliant Heart / Destination Girl / Displaced Housewife / lazyhippiemama / Word Flows

I’d love to say something about each blogger because each of them deserve recognition, but I’ve already written over a thousand words… perhaps the mundane confessions weren’t all mundane.

“They don’t know what’s going on inside your head — the mind-numbing cocktail of anger and sadness and guilt”

I almost lost it today.

Stupidly, I decided not to take my medication this morning. I was in a rush to get to my ultrasound appointment, and planned to take it when I got home. A few hours don’t tend to make much difference usually. However, this time I couldn’t control certain emotions and fears, and I really didn’t like it. Although I undoubtedly have BPD, most of the time it’s controlled by medication; I still panic, but can rationalise it if somebody doesn’t contact me (usually) and I’m not so prone to running away from stressful situations. I’ve been proud of the progress I’ve made in keeping the irrational fear behind a wall in my head.

Today though… I don’t know if it’s the heat, or having to get up early, or just sheer chance, but I freaked out. I got ready fine, put my makeup on, straightened my hair, put a dress on – signs I’m doing okay – but as soon as I got in the taxi, anxiety started building.

Paranoia. Panic attack. Psychosis. I don’t know what you’d call it. I become convinced everyone is staring at me and judging me unkindly; the logical side of me knows it’s impossible for a whole room of people to all hate me on sight, but logic means little when everything seems to be exploding and falling apart.

In the hospital waiting room, I decided a well-to-do woman sitting opposite me was staring at my face. Perhaps my hair or piercings. Maybe my choice of clothing; it all runs together. I started to panic and babbled at my mother about how much I hate hospitals, about the shabby-looking equipment and sullen staff. Anything to distract myself from the posh woman’s supposed glare. Looking back, I don’t even know if she was really looking at me. I could have made the whole thing up.

The building panic wasn’t helped by an incredibly rude sonographer. As paranoid as I was feeling, even I can’t pretend that he didn’t say a single word to me; wouldn’t even make eye contact. How difficult is it to say hello? I lay on the narrow bed while he totally ignored me, and I strained to make out the images on the ultrasound. I think I could make out the tendon; although what’s normal isn’t exactly something I can recognise.

I don’t even know where the results are going. I did ask – since I’m under both the care of my GP and Dr. B for the same issue – but I can’t remember the answer for the life of me. My head was so muddled at this point that I just wanted to get out, have a cigarette and cry.

I couldn’t go home and calm down though. My mother came with me to the appointment so we could shop in Tesco afterwards; so I had at least two more hours of panic to deal with. She spends forever looking at packages and going back and forth, and it’s not rare for me to kick off in the shop, but I’ve been doing well at controlling the rage recently. I just grit my teeth and force myself to get on with it.

In Tesco, I did well until the morning rush started. Suddenly the whole place was filled with hassled parents and middle-aged men fighting over barbeques, shoving their trolleys into the backs of my legs and blocking whole aisles with armfuls of children; all running around and screaming.

I quickly lost my mother somewhere – again, a regular occurence – and became panicked about not being able to carry what I’d already bought. Worried I’d never find her. I decided to distract myself by looking at contract mobiles (I’m considering getting a HTC Desire), and soon started thinking about the huge elephant which constantly stomps around our house; my financial situation.

In short, although I’m 27 years old, my benefits still get paid into my mother’s bank account. Why? I can only believe she’s using it to control me. She’s never allowed me to take control of my own money, although I’ve begged her many times.

When I finally found her in the vegetable aisle, I asked her if she’s going to “sort my money out”. I’ve been asking for over a decade, and got the same answer as usual: “Soon. Just let me get some stuff sorted first”.

An hour’s worth of panic and worry flew up into my mouth, and I started stammering at her. My throat tightened up and started to hurt. I wanted to cry. Scream. Punch somebody. I had to walk away feigning interest in the make-up section before I sat myself down on the floor and refused to budge; it wouldn’t be the first time. I wanted to run away and hide from all the strangers staring at me and judging my faults.

I’ve had two panic attacks recently; I don’t like to think it could be the start of something.

Bizarrely, I was saved from full-blown meltdown by bumping into S outside Tesco. Leaving to get a taxi home coincided with his lunch break at the hospital, and I couldn’t have felt more relieved. I calmed down immediately.

He’s like my own personal diazepam.

Depression – why opening the curtains can cause more suffering, and other advice

I originally planned to reblog this post, but after typing out a long response, WordPress decided to keep my reblog in a never-ending publishing state, then eventually wiped the entire post.

Picture this. You’re trapped beneath a safety-blanket of duvets and pillows. The room is dark and silent. All you hear is your breathing; and sometimes you’re not quite sure if you’re really alive. It feels like you’re wrapped in a big, dark spider web; you know something bad is coming, but you don’t even want to struggle or escape. Days and nights pass in a blur of half-sleep and daydreams. Time ceases to mean anything. You can’t remember when you last brushed your teeth; and it doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to.

Suddenly, somebody comes stomping in, full of cheeriness and attempts to gee you up. They flounce over to the curtains and fling them open, pulling the nice, safe duvet from you and exposing you to the harsh, painful light. Your eyes sting. You haven’t seen real daylight in a while. You feel cold and naked; the act of stripping away a blanket is, to you, a cruel and unusual punishment. The whole world can see you now, and you’re scared.  Tired, anxious, weary and scared. You just want to be left alone.

This is why pointing out lovely weather is annoying and pointless.

Depression is a cruel illness. It strips you of your ability to care or relate to anything around you. It fills your mind with emptiness – a saying I never understood until I experienced chronic depression myself – and it’s all you can do to blink without giving up.

My mother has a habit of trying to force me outside, into the garden. When she thinks I’ve spent long enough hiding in my bedroom, she’ll waltz in (usually while I’m asleep), throw the curtains wide with as much clattering and muttering as possible, and proclaim that, “you’d feel much better if you got some sunshine!”.

I don’t doubt that weather has a huge impact on depression. I certainly feel much less able to cope in the winter; making excuses about the weather being too bad to leave the house or see friends. However, depression is a very complex illness, and you wouldn’t expect a bit of sun to magically fix a broken arm. It won’t cure depression either.

There is one aspect of depression I have never been able to manipulate or control via medication; the urge to shut myself away from the world. Friendships have fallen by the wayside because there’s only so  many times you can refuse an invitation before they stop asking. Being shut away is a natural response to being depressed; withdrawing from everything and everyone can sometimes feel like the only way to save yourself. Retreat to a place you feel comfortable and secure.

As well-meaning as it may be to try to force a depressive out of their comfort zone in an attempt to cure them, what you’re really doing is tearing the safety blanket away from a very vulnerable person. You may call it tough love, but to the person you’re trying to help, you’re being cruel and unreasonable. They already feel low enough without feeling their loved ones are turning against them as well.

Depression lies. When a friend offers you advice on ways to cope, sometimes the depressed brain will twist the words to sound like an accusation; particularly in cases of borderline personality disorder. I’ve been told that bipolar can feel the same. This imagined accusation sticks with the depressed person and, over time, morphs into a huge monster they can’t possibly hope to tackle.

Going outside has long been a big problem of mine. In the past four years (give or take a year) I’ve gone from somebody who goes on regular long walks and trips to town, to an almost-recluse, travelling by taxi so I don’t have to deal with the public and wearing nondescript clothes so as not to draw attention to myself. Part of  that is due to living with chronic pain, but I know depression is at the root of my reluctance to be seen in public.

You see, I worry that everybody knows my secret. That they can somehow tell from my face I’m “one of those crazy people”. I’ve sat in taxis, listening to the driver crack jokes about our local psychiatric unit, and prayed he wouldn’t look me in the eye and realise I’m totally incapable of existing without daily medication.

I accept that trying to help somebody with depression is like fighting a losing battle. The nature of depression is that it convinces the sufferer that getting well isn’t an option. The concept of recovery doesn’t even exist; depression hides it from you.

This is why sometimes the sufferer lashes out either verbally or physically when you try to help them. It’s why they may turn their back on you and not contact you for six months when you give out a few well-meaning hints. It’s not that they don’t appreciate the advice or care about you; it’s that they’re unable to feel those emotions properly. Depression has dampened everything down, placing the depressive in a near-soundproof room. They may be able to hear you, but their lack of reaction isn’t because they’re being spiteful and ignoring you; it’s due to depression smothering them with apathy.

It’s natural to want to help those who are suffering, and mental illnesses are no different. However, unless you’re a doctor you wouldn’t try to remove a tumour; in the same sense, unless you really know what you’re talking about, offering advice to somebody entrenched in misery probably won’t work.

I’m not saying to abandon those who have depression. Far from it; there are other ways to help than mentioning medications and therapies you’ve heard about.

So, how do you help someone with depression? I don’t have the answers to that. Everyone is different, and depression is a wide-ranging illness often encompassing other diagnoses such as psychosis, paranoia, anxiety disorder, BPD, PTSD and bipolar. What works for one person might not work for another. However, along with not  wantonly opening curtains, there are some things which might help.

  • The urge to drag a depressive out of bed is probably huge. However, it’s rarely the answer. When somebody retreats it’s through a need to be alone;  whether rational or not. In the depths of a depressive episode, you shrink into yourself and ignore phone calls. Emails go unanswered. Often, the sheer stress of having to communicate wears the sufferer down so much that they retreat entirely. Obviously if you’re concerned for their safety this advice doesn’t apply; but as long as they’re not hurting themselves… sometimes they just need to get through it on their own. Keep an eye on them; don’t let them be entirely alone, but don’t pressure them either. It can be a long process to climb out of the hole.
  • It’s hard to help someone when they throw accusations in your face. Paranoia often tags along with depression, and it’s very easy to become convinced that those trying to help you are actually out to damage you somehow. My personal experience of it is that it’s almost a form of psychosis; suddenly everything and everyone are against you, and even the people who claim to love you seem to be trying to ruin everything. It’s not something you can just get control over. It’s easy to imagine enemies everywhere when you feel entirely stripped bare.
  • I shouldn’t have to say this, but having depression doesn’t make you stupid or lazy. Sadly, these views still exist. Telling somebody to “just get out of bed and join the real world” isn’t the answer; it just serves to  make the sufferer feel even less of a person than they already do. Ask someone experiencing a depressive episode if they feel like a valuable member of society; they don’t. They’re at the lowest point it’s possible to reach, and suggesting in a roundabout  way that they’re taking up space and being lazy isn’t what we need to hear.
  • On a similar note, saying “my auntie was depressed for a week and she did more exercise and it went away” doesn’t help. It’s condescending and patronising. We know our illness; we live with it every day.
  • Telling somebody on anti-depressants that you don’t believe they’re safe or work properly will get you nowhere. Those with depression need support every step of the way, not putting down for their choices. Often, deciding to take medication is the last straw of a very painful life. It can be incredibly difficult to get up enough courage to go to the doctor and explain your failings so you can be given happy pills. If they work for somebody, what’s the problem?
  • You don’t know how they feel. Even if you have depression yourself, you can’t see or feel their exact emotions; or lack of. When  you’re trapped in the depression bubble, nobody has ever felt as wretched as you do. That feeling isn’t from an excess of ego; you really do feel like nobody could ever withstand the pain and emptiness. Tell them if you empathise or relate – communicating with other sufferers can help enormously – but don’t try to convince them you know how terrible everything is.
  • Invite your depressed friends and family to parties, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if they decline. It’s not because they don’t want to see you; it’s because they don’t want to see anybody. Telling them they’d “feel better if they had a few drinks” may be well-meant, but it won’t help. They won’t feel better. They’re sick, and sickness can’t be cured by a bit of fun. Let them know you’d like them to be there but that there’s no pressure. Pressure to socialise is a very painful part of depression.
  • Don’t tell them they look tired. Seriously. Nobody needs to hear that.