This pseudo-recovery thing has its downsides. I miss writing this blog with the frequency that I used to, and yet when I sit down to knock out a few (a few! Me?! As if!) paragraphs, the will to do so seems to vanish. I think it’s not so much that I miss the actual writing, although now that I’m actually doing so I can entertain the notion that there’s an element of that, but more ruefulness about the lack of a finished product – the completed posts and the resulting frame of personal reference, and the comments and the resulting support. Some of you have been lovely enough to state that you miss my former regular writing too. I’m sorry about that; it just feels like there’s very little to say at the minute, other than to harp endlessly on meetings with Paul. Of course, confronting the therapy session reviews that the blog is owed in its own self-styled way – now four in total – means remembering said sessions. And remembering risks feeling. That’s a sort of scary prospect when you’re playing with a fragile sense of sanity.
That said though, I have determined that before the end of this week, I will catch up on at least two of them. So if you don’t see at least ‘Paul – Weeks 19 and 20′ by, say, Sunday evening, please feel free to bollock me senseless.
I saw Christine last week. In many ways it was an inconsequential appointment (not that that’ll stop 4,024,203 words spewing out on the subject), in that very little had changed since my previous encounter with her. I said so, then just looked stupidly at her, trying desperately, and failing miserably, to think of something further to say to her.
In the end, I referred to the suggested writing projects to which she had alluded in the previous meeting. I was very good and contacted quite a few of the mental health charities – Northern Irish, Irish and British. Christine was delighted with this turn of events. I suppressed a smug smile and neglected to inform her that I’d only fired off the emails that morning so as I wouldn’t take a bollocking from her. Granted, she doesn’t seem the type to start bollocking people, but in NHS mental health services, one can never be sure. I’ve learnt that the difficult way.
Incidentally, I’ve had two replies to my emails – one from the Mental Health Foundation, and one from the ever-excellent Rethink. The MHF kindly tweeted about my blog, and Rethink have suggested either writing* blog entries for them, or contributing to their magazine, Your Voice. As a Rethink member, I’ve read said periodical for a few years now, and have often thought of submitting a piece to it – the problem was, and still is, identifying a meaningful topic. I just spout dribble here, for the most part, and that seems kind of inappropriate for such a publication. The idea of blogging for them is really cool, especially as there’s an outside chance of becoming a regular guest writer – the same issue applies, though. I’ll have to consider what I may want to write about carefully. So as yet I’ve not replied to Rethink (if you’re reading this, nice Rethink people, I apologise); I want to formulate some ideas that would be worth their audience’s time. When I have done this, I’ll submit them and cross my fingers.
[* I know I said above that as soon as I sit down to write here, my muse fades (it frankly runs and hides in cavernous holes at times). Why would writing for Rethink be any different? I think that maintaining my own account of things is the most important thing I can do but, at the same time, doing something - writing included - for someone else makes it more...urgent? Of utilitarian value? Full of drive, perhaps? Whatever the case, there is something behind it that, if I can identify the right subject(s), will spur me on. But I won't neglect my old friend Confessions, I promise. Not any more than I'm presently doing, anyway Nasty Pan ]
Anyhow, back to Christine. She was seemingly thrilled that I had “taken the initiative” (an odd expression to behold when it was she, not me, that had suggested the aforementioned course of action) and that it was a “really positive step” symbolising my taking some responsibility in this odd venture towards some sort of mental health. Or some old faff like that (sorry, but I don’t remember sessions with her or NewVCB in the level of detail that I do for therapy, as I never take notes on them in their immediate aftermath). I suppose that I am meant to welcome her enthusiasm, but frankly I don’t. I am terrified that if she and/or NewVCB are under the impression that I’m ‘well’, that they’ll discharge me from Services. I’m well-er (there’s a new word for you) than I was; that much is evident to anyone who’s been in contact with me over the last few months (whether in real life, or here in the e-ther). But I am far from recovered. As NewVCB once put it, I remain a “very disturbed young girl” (given that I’ll be 28 this year, I dispute the use of the word ‘young’ ((and perhaps even the word ‘girl’)), but perhaps that’s not something about which I should complain too much). No, this is a good period – but I don’t know how stable ‘good periods’ are, or are meant to be. I’ve never had one in these kind of circumstances (ie. going through/having been through therapy) before.
Christine claimed that I was looking well. I thanked her for lying, and was rather taken aback when she seemed to be amused by this response. I was wearing a black dress and sandals; for some reason, this was deemed to be significant.
One thing you have probably guessed about me but which I haven’t, to the best of my recollection, stated explicitly before, is that I am about as far from domesticated as my ancestral amoeba were. Probably even more removed from domesticity than that. I occasionally cook (I can rustle up quite a nice, vaguely take-away standard hot curry when I put my mind to it) and throw clothes in the washing machine, but I do absolutely fuck all else about the house (and before someone asks, no: A doesn’t normally do it for me. He does his own stuff and that’s that). This includes giving a flying green shit about my clothes. They’re piled up in a huge box in the kitchen where I throw them to get them out of my way. On this occasion, the black dress was on the top of the pile; it was not chosen as some measure of a welcome of spring or some such other o’er-prosaic wank. ‘Twas a confluence of events assured entirely by the forces of Random Luck.
“Does wearing [the dress] increase your confidence?” Christine asked, grinning from ear to ear like something out of a Lewis Carroll novel.
“No,” I replied, puzzled by the question. “Why would it?”
She made some dull remark about ‘dressing up’ or something. I laughed in her face (sort of, but less cynically than I’ve tended to do with others in the CMHT. After all, she doesn’t know me that well yet) and advised that I could be wearing a bin bag or Kate fucking Middleton’s wedding dress (which, incidentally, was underwhelming, not that I give a toss – you just couldn’t avoid encountering such things with the media in this country being such utter bellends) and I wouldn’t feel any different. It’s not that I think I’m hideously ugly or anything – it’s just that one piece of clothing is much like another to (and on) me.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned that A and I are going on holiday later this month; I imparted this information to Christine, too. The usual pre-holiday question, reasonably enough, ensued; how do I cope with being away, being in a new place, blah blah? I confessed that whilst I am very much looking forward to the trip, I feel a subtle but definite amount of apprehension about going somewhere completely new. Last year, we went back to Turkey as we’d done the year previously, so I bore no such concerns – this year, it’s Fuertaventura, which is an unknown quantity. The reports from friends and from our own investigations are splendid, but I cannot be certain that they are accurate until I have experienced the place myself. As you know, unknowns scare me.
I told her so, and she offered to see me before I went left Norn Iron – which is within a shorter timescale than the gaps my meetings with her have been hitherto – so that was a good thing. Generous and thoughtful of her, I thought. I am to obtain additional Diazepam from the quacks should I need it, she says (not that that’s going to happen, as the chances of me seeing Lovely GP before 21st May is virtually nil. All the patients know that he is good and that the others are cock, so he’s booked up for weeks on end). Take Zopiclone in case my sleep is fucked. The usual really.
I said that one concern is that, whilst the travel insurance company are aware that I’m mental, the actual insurance doesn’t cover psychiatric issues of any description. We could have bought it, but it put the premium up by an absolute fuckload, and whilst it’s a peace of mind issue, on the balance of probability I’m not likely to have an episode that would require acute treatment, so it didn’t seem worthwhile to procure it. Christine, like myself, is of the view that the holiday is more likely to relax me than anything else and that if I’m going to go doolally all over again, then it’s not likely to be then. Well, fingers crossed.
She mentioned that she’d been to Fuertaventura and that it was “lovely”. I asked her what part, but in her reminiscing, she forgot to answer my question properly – not that I minded. She talked of her hotel and how it was a good bit outside a town.
“I like to go to quiet places,” she murmured quietly and reminiscently. “I travel on my own, so I like it to be…well, quiet, you know.”
I nodded expressionlessly, but I suddenly felt overwhelmed by a sense of great sadness. Here is this ordinary but good woman, in my estimation genuinely trying to help people rather than just earn a living, and she seems to be alone in the world. (She could have a husband/wife/partner and travel alone, yes, but is it really likely?). That isn’t fair. I mean, I know life’s not fair, but really. I hate the injustice of that. There are so many epic, epic twats – twats of arrogance, or of bigotry, or of whatever – out there that sport some bint or some dick on their arms and live long, contented, 2.4 nuclear perfected lives together. Then there are lovely, sincere, down-to-Earth people who are kicked in the face with sand by life. Fuck that.
I mean, maybe she’s gratefully alone; it happens, after all. But her body language, her lack of eye contact, the wistful way in which she spoke – I’m not so sure. And what can I say to her? How can I admit to this sense of profound sadness, regret and even on-her-behalf longing? She’s my CPN, not the other way around! So I cowardly lowered my head, and waited for the subject to move forward.
What has gotten into me? This whole craic of pity doesn’t sit well with my ‘Hard Bitch’ attitude (an attitude which, I was told today by Paul, I have never had. Paul met me when I was 26. I met me when I was 0, which strikes me as being a considerable head-start on what he has. So why does he profess, apparently in earnest, to think contrary to my own assessment?!). It must be a whole pre-30, slightly-more-than-third-life crisis thing. Or maybe I’m still just completely batshit mad, and managing to do a good job of disguising it, even to myself.
Anyway, for some reason we ended up having a discussion regarding Zopiclone. I admitted to her that I receive repeat prescriptions of it, but (perhaps not entirely surprisingly) I omitted the detail that this was simply down to an administrative error. This led Christine to believe that it was a doctor-sanctioned thing. Which, when you think about it, it is – technically. I mean, someone has to sign the monthly scripts, right? And anyway, I didn’t lie to her. And lies of omission don’t count. Because I said so, in case you’re wondering why.
The long and the short of the conversation was that I have an absolute shitload of Zopiclone lying about the place. As I told her, this is because one of these days the GPs’ practice will realise I’ve been receiving a repeat prescription of the stuff since the dawn of time (or at least since NewVCB prescribed it on a one-basis last year, anyway) and desist my allowance of it forthwith. She frowned slightly and, a trepidatious concern lacing her words, said, “you’re not planning to take an overdose with them, are you?”
I wanted to laugh at the suggestion, but I managed to control myself and instead shot her a wry smile.
“Most certainly not,” I assured her.
She raised her right eyebrow questioningly.
“I suppose I could OD if I wanted to self-harm, but it’s not at all my MO,” I told her, probably a little too matter-of-factly. “If I want to do myself in, however, believe me – there are more efficient, more reliably lethal, more peaceful methods than a few too many Zopiclone.
“But,” I added, realising I was making myself sound like I was her intellectual, psychiatrically-aware superior, “I’m sure you know that anyway.”
She ignored my secondary dictum and asked, “are you still having suicidal thoughts?”.
“Of course,” I replied, incredulous at the idea that I might not be thus afflicted. “How could I not be?”
She asked me about the severity and nature of them, I answered her honestly, blah de blah. “Basically it’s just everyday fantasy,” I concluded.
“‘Everyday fantasy’,” she repeated. “I know we had this conversation before, but it seems worth exploring again – you do know that suicidal ‘fantasy’ [the word was spoken with heavy...I don't know. Irony?] is not…it’s not…normal for most people?”
She was right; we have had this discussion before. But I just can’t believe it. How can anyone not at least have some daily suicidal thinking, even if it doesn’t translate into exact, in-depth plans? How is that even remotely possible? It just does not compute on any level in my mind.
Christine, however, assured me that it is indeed the case. “Most” people, apparently, do not live with daily (or even less frequent) suicidal ideation to any extent.
In return, I assured her that I had no active plans to catch the bus, and that is indeed a truthful account of circumstances as they stand. But I don’t think I will ever not have at least peripheral suicidality permeating my mind. I truly don’t know anything different, and – AGAIN – I don’t believe in cures for mentalness. As long as such ideation is mere fantasy, though, I presume that I should interpret it as a mental health win.
A few further questions ensued, mainly about getting out of the house. I try to avoid it, meh. But you do do it? If I really have to, yes. Do you see friends much? No. Why? One lives in London, one works two jobs, something always happens to prevent my meeting a third (the ‘somethings’ have become increasingly ridiculous over time. It’s now a bit of a running joke between us). But! Hark. I am meeting said third friend (Aaron, if you care) on Monday after therapy. That’s great! Is it? Yes. But it’s…well, it’s ordinary. People meet their mates all the time. It can be ordinary, but when you’ve been as isolated as you have, it’s actually a really good step forward. Um…OK.
I did meet Aaron today and it went well, as it always does when we manage to circumnavigate fate and actually get to fucking see each other. There is little to report here, though, because as I said – meeting a friend is ordinary. Normals do this all the time. I rarely do. I like Christine, but I’d rather she’d just have call a spade a spade. Fuck the terms ‘isolation’ and suchlike – just say that it’s not ordinary for a mental, but that it is for normals. That’s what she meant, after all. I know that I’m not a normal, and I don’t mind that. It’s OK.
A final matter that was addressed was, unsurprisingly, Paul. I reiterated to her that despite the views of “some” (namely her and NewVCB, but I couldn’t bring myself to be so direct; it would have felt accusatory), the impending end of my Nexus therapy was not about feeling “abandoned” or some old wank like that.
“There has been a lot of productive work done with him. I therefore know that the therapy works. However, there’s an awful lot still to do. By Paul’s [and, indeed, the general literature's] own admission, this kind of trauma therapy should be conducted over two or three years. To use his terms, my…issues…were severe, systematic and long-term. That can’t be adequately dealt with in 26 weeks. So I’m regretful of the fact that things are drawing to a close, because I know it helps, and I know that it could continue to help.”
I went on to tell her that Paul had suggested that once week 26 has been and gone that I wait a few months, then simply go back to Nexus. “Which is good,” I conceded, “but I’ve convinced myself that despite Paul’s best intentions, it won’t happen and I’ll be therapeutically fucked. Again.” (Actually, I’m sure I didn’t use the word ‘fuck’ in the meeting; I’ve yet to make my assessment on how acceptable such parlance is to her. But you know what I mean).
“I’m sure he wouldn’t say that if he didn’t honestly feel that it was going to happen,” she offered.
“I know, I know, but…bah, I just can’t convince myself of it.”
She nodded sympathetically. “Have you any plans for those months in between the two stints?”
“Well…I was hoping to ask you about this, actually,” I began. For some reason, it felt like I was asking her to sacrifice her (possible) children to Satan, and I started stammering and bumbling like the idiot that I am.
“I…well, I…er…I kind of wondered…um…yes, wondered…well, if maybe…perhaps it would be p-p-possible, just maybe and if not it’s fiiiiine [hideously over-emphasised, thus proving that it is/was not 'fiiiiine']…if maybe, y’know…you could…well…see me, meet me…[massive clearance of throat]…I was wondering if I could maybe see you more often during that period than I currently do.”
After all my moronic mumbling, she didn’t take a second to even consider the request. Instead, she immediately nodded – and nodded emphatically. “Of course,” she said. “That would be absolutely no problem at all.” She smiled reassuringly.
And (finally) that was really that. One further thing she did do was try to negotiate an appointment with NewVCB before our holiday – I’ve been asked to attend during the holiday, which is obviously impossible if one is 3,000 miles south of the proposed meeting place. Unfortunately, though, the next appointment isn’t until 8th June – but that’s only a week after we return, so it could’ve been worse. Hopefully NewVCB will have the results of my recent ECG, enabling us to discuss whether or not I should brace myself for a daily hit of 375mg of Venlafaxine.
3,000 odd words to say something really rather simple. Christine is a likeable and gentle person, and despite it being fairly early on in our alliance, I already believe that she wants – and will seek to get, insofar as she can – the best for me. I left her office feeling reassured and pretty positive about my current care team. I hope I’ve judged the current situation well – I’ve been known to fuck things like this up in the past. But I think she is a good thing. I’m pretty confident about it, actually.
And I still feel sorry for her. Which is wrong on so many levels – it shouldn’t be like me, and moreover it isn’t my place to take pity on the woman. She is, after all, her own person with her own agency. But I can’t shake off this sense that she maybe doesn’t have the lot in life that she actually deserves, and that continues to sadden me greatly.
I’m seeing her again on 19th May.