The Inevitable 'Goodbye' Post

Not Dead, Just Sleeping…

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday, dear Confessions
Happy birthday to me!

Confessions of a Serial Insomniac began exactly three years ago today with the first incarnation of the ubiquitous About page. It seems fitting and right that it meets its pseudo-demise on its birthday. It’s a nice, round timeframe.

Those of you that are regular readers will have seen this coming for months. Indeed, I’ve discussed it with several of you over the last…I don’t know, eight or ten weeks, maybe more. My passion for this place – once overwhelming – has waned profoundly, and it would feel a disservice to the blog to simply abandon it, rather than tying up its loose ends.

There’s so much I want to say that I hardly know where to start. I’ll jump in, then, with practicalities.

  • I said in a recent post that I intended to discuss my new set of sessions with Paul on the blog. I’m not going to do that after all, for which my apologies are due. I’ll outline the primary reason for this later.
  • I never did finish my series on my aunt Maisie’s demise. Again, apologies for those of you that were mad enough to be interested. To be honest, although I could have made the further details of the funeral into an epic yet dull piece of prose, not much of note really happened. Her coffin was carried up the road a bit, the eight men underneath it bulking under its weight. I once again, inexplicably, envied my cousins’ comforting of each other. Maisie was buried, atop a hill, in the sunlight. I cried again, like the sad cunt I apparently am. We went to the tedious, oppressive wake (on which, ironically, Maisie would have completely thrived). The only real out-of-the-ordinary incident was to do with Aunt of Evil. After hours of successfully avoiding the accursed woman, she managed to catch me out whilst I was aimlessly talking to her brother-in-law, Uncle of Boredom. Long story short: although she apologised to me for “whatever it was [she] ha[d] done” (as if she didn’t fucking know!), I ended up apologising to her too! I raged with myself for weeks, because I had done nothing to the heinous witch to warrant any words of atonement, but then I remembered she’d gone back to USistan without my having seen or spoken to her again, and I settled a bit.
  • Twitter and Facebook. I’ll keep them both ‘officially’ open, I think – Twitter especially holds so much history for me – but I’m very unlikely to be updating or checking either. Don’t unfollow them, though (unless you’re sick of me, which is obviously reasonable enough); you never know where and when I may re-crop up…
  • Although I’m finishing my writing tenure here, I’m not taking the blog down; it’ll still be fully accessible. Many of the search terms over the years – and the regular readers I’ve picked up therefrom – have suggested to me that some people have actually found parts of this rubbish useful, or at least enjoyable (!). I don’t want to deny others the opportunity to explore it should they so wish, and in any case the domain name and hosting are paid up until at least January 2013, so they might as well be made use of.
  • You can still contact me, though I’ll be disabling the contact form soon and, as observed, will probably not be hanging about Twitter. Instead, email me at pandora dot urquharthuxley at gmail dot com. This arrangement will most likely not be permanent either, but it will bridge a gap at least.

Now then. I suppose I should try to outline my reasons for leaving this place, my much-loved home for three years – the place where I met so many amazing people, garnered so much support and spouted so much crap that offered a surprising amount of catharsis. As I sit here and write this, it almost feels like folly to quit; Confessions has brought me so much, and here I am rejecting it. I will mourn it, and do so profoundly; it has shaped my life beyond my wildest dreams during its course, so how could I not?

But I am not this person any more.

I think there comes a time in the lives of most mental people where they realise, or accept, that they are defined by something greater than their diagnoses. For the most part, I have seen my life since 2008 – and, to a lesser extent, since I was a teenager – as an experience which was shaped by my diseased mind and its treacherous idiosyncrasies. Of late, though, I’ve begun to think differently of myself. I’m not naive, and I’m not an idealist: I have a mental illness, and although that can potentially be managed, I will almost certainly always have it. My views have not changed so radically that I now see myself as someone who has ‘pathologised her humanity‘ or some such other patronising fucking nonsense. Nonetheless, ‘mental’ is no longer the first word jumping from my lips when someone asks me about myself.

I suppose I could adapt Confessions to reflect this – I could write about gaming, books, pubs I like, holidays I’ve been on. But it does not, in any fashion, feel right; this has always been a blog about mental health, and I feel it more apt to let it stay that way. So as I as a person move on, so must my blog.

There are wider issues than just this, of course. Logistically speaking, I don’t always have time to write here any more, at least not in the essay-ish style to which I’ve always been prone. Again, I feel it would be a disservice to the legacy of what I’ve done with this journal to modify my writing style to facilitate shorter posts; it’s just not what this all became over the course of its life. I’ve had it said to me by a few people that my longest posts – probably because they’re the ones in which I’ve become most immersed – are my best, and I’d rather be remembered for that than for something that just dribbled dry over time. At the risk of employing a vulgar cliche, as Neil Young (and, more famously, Kurt Cobain) put it, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Additionally, to quote one of my favourite writers who has also lately bowed out of anonymous blogging, I am tired of pretending. I’ve long-since hated the anonymity that this place affords me – not because I hate the persona that you all know as Pandora, for she has become an irrevocable part of ‘me’, and despite it all, I actually don’t hate myself (and am not sure that I ever truly did). It’s because I am not ashamed of who I am, of who I have become, of what I have, and of what I don’t. The matters discussed on this journal have actively required that I cloak myself behind a pseudonym, but, again, I no longer see myself as someone solely prescribed and designated as a victim of sexual abuse or vicious hallucinations. To that end, I presently don’t need my anonymity (at least for pursuits unconnected to this website).

The final straw was in therapy recently. Nominally, Paul and I were having a proper therapeutic conversation, though he did at the end comment that it had been a strange session. It was, because I was not properly in it. Thankfully – or not – that had nothing to do with fucking Aurora; it was me playing games with myself. To get to the bloody point, I was sitting there considering in detailed terms how I could frame our discussion in dialogue-driven, prosaic terms – did he raise an eyebrow here, did I sneer at something there? – for this blog.

That is not healthy. I knew right then that I had to stop writing here. Therapy is meant to be a life-enriching, remedial experience; it’s not fucking blogging fodder. In the sessions that followed, having made up my mind to close things down, we were able to do much more fulfilling work together.

Naturally, this has a downside; I am unable to express to A, for example, the kind of material covered in session. I regret that, but I feel that healthy psychotherapy is more important for all concerned than others having insight into the process as it happens to me. If that sounds blunt, please forgive me: my point is that if I am unwell (as, without adequate, concentrated treatment, I will be), then everyone around me is affected. That’s no more fair on them – and probably you, as a reader – than it is on me.

I am a horrendously jealous person – I freely admit it. When I log on to that bloody curse that is Facebook – I really should deactivate it yet again – I see people I went to school with having brats and developing the careers they always wanted. I’m not envious of the former per se because, as you know, I’m childfree. But I am jealous of them having what they want, and of their apparent happiness with their lives.

But, you know, when I think about it all in context, when I think of all I’ve faced and all I’ve done – or at least tried to do – it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

I didn’t have the best start in life, whether through social factors, chemical ones or ones relating to my own psychology (or, in my view, a combination of all thereof). I could have let my resulting mental illness fuck me entirely – and at times it nearly has, and indeed it still might – but I fight with every weapon my arsenal allows me; I actively try to help myself get better. I engage with all services available to me – psychiatry, nursing and therapy (indeed, I had to go out of my way to secure the latter, after NHS Psychology shat on my face, rather than lying down under it like I could have done). I co-operate with them all despite the fact that they – like almost anything – are not perfect, because I don’t want this non-life any more. I want that sense of contentment that those twats on Facebook appear to have.

Although I’m still ill, I refuse to tolerate the idea that I should stay on state benefits indefinitely. That is most indubitably not to say that mentals (or anyone else with a serious and/or enduring illness) should be forced off ESA and other benefits. Fuck the Coalition and their myopic, dangerous biases; our first concern as a society should be to support individuals who are disabled, ill and/or vulnerable, rather than lowering taxes for people who can afford to fucking pay for them.

Still, I ultimately want to be self-sufficient, despite the perhaps precarious position in which I find myself. It may not happen any time soon, but I want to, when possible, try.

I’m pragmatic enough to realise that my illness can’t be cured, merely managed, and as such although in an ideal world I’d go back to a more traditional job, I realise that it may (and only ‘may’) not be possible (or at least sustainable).

So, for now at least, I write. I consider myself a writer now, regardless of whether others think the title narcissistic or grandiose. This is partly why I don’t have as much time as I once did for Confessions; it’s sad, but it’s real. As my best mate Dan (himself a full-time staff journalist) discussed the other day, I’ve made genuine in-roads into turning what was once a vague fairytale idea into a reality. I’m talking to Editors, engaging with the low-paying but still useful services of guru.com and eLance, getting my (real) name out there…and I’ve applied for a voluntary job which will involve, if I get it, writing for the local rags about mental illness. Most of my writing to date has been in relatively specialist publications and websites, so writing for the papers – a more mainstream pursuit, with wider readerships – would be a welcome challenge, and indeed a useful addition to my portfolio.

Oh, and The Book? It’s back on 🙂 I’m also half-minded to try and novelise this blog at some point, but that would be an immense piece of work – even harder than a random piece of fiction, because it would require endless re-working of Confessions, rather than putting a bunch of ideas down on paper and formulating them into prose. If The Book ultimately has any success, I may be buoyed to work on such a monolithic task, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

My writing ‘career’ may fail…but, again, I’m trying to make something of my life. It’s very difficult right now, what with not being fully well, and there are days when it’s impossible to face. There are days when anything is impossible to face. But I’m starting, and that’s got to count for something. If it goes tits up – yes, that’ll be disappointing. That much goes without saying. But I’d rather have that potential outcome than that in which I didn’t give it a damn good go.

And I feel a little better each day. A bit less depressed, a bit less despairing, a bit more positive, a bit more hopeful. My current medication cocktail, combined with an ever-excellent psychotherapist, has brought me closer to wellness than I’ve been in a very long time, despite the truly abysmal year this has been, circumstantially, so far. As I said way up above, I no longer see myself entirely through the lens of a mentally ill kaleidoscope.

In the years since my most recent breakdown, I’ve often cursed my psychic misfortune (aside from the fact that no, I still probably wouldn’t flick the sanity switch were I offered the option). Further, I’ve cursed this blog (sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes just in rage-fuelled piques). And yet…look what both my madness and my blogging have brought me.

  • A half-credible chance to use my afflictions to facilitate a respectable career, whilst simultaneously advocating for others in the same shitty boat.
  • Most importantly, I have met some of the most wonderful people in the entire known universe – people who (God/Buddha/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Richard Dawkins willing) will be lifelong friends.

Throw in the gratifying fact that I’m in a long-term – and, more crucially, happy – relationship with a loving, accepting partner. Multiply that by the other genuinely meaningful and life-changing friendships I have managed to forge throughout my life – Dan, Brian, Aaron, lots of people that are not close friends but that are certainly more than acquaintances. Minus the disastrously dysfunctional family, but add to the list a loving mother – something that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

When I think about things thus, when I examine my life as though it were the Bayeux Tapestry, looking at the ‘bigger picture’ (I hate that fucking term) – well, I feel privileged.

And at the risk of repeating myself, in these circumstances, I find myself sometimes thinking, “do you know what, Pan? You ultimately did well, girl. You did well.”

And, for now at least, that’s enough.

Is this completely ‘goodbye’? Not necessarily. A number of you already follow another blog I write, and I will consider requests for the URL from others (email me as per the details at the start of the post, though please do not be offended if I don’t respond with the address; I don’t write exclusively about mentalness there, and don’t want it to become what this blog has). Furthermore, I may add the odd update here once in a very occasional while. And let’s not forget that when Maisie died, despite my pre-existing intention to wind down Confessions, I immediately gravitated here and ended up writing quite a lot; as it had been so many times before, the blog was my haven and lustration. Right at the top of this entry, I used the words ‘not dead, just sleeping’. So, when things inevitably go downhill again, or when some other life event once again sends me down the figurative shitter, this place could be resurrected. So do keep me on your RSS Readers and social media profiles just in case 🙂 I’m not offering any guarantees, and I’m certainly not saying it’s even likely. It would be folly to rule anything in, or rule anything out, though, so there you have it.

Whatever happens, thank you for sharing this madness with me. Your support, tolerance, friendship, and even love has made my life better – and literally saved me on occasion. I’m pretty convinced I’d either be dead or much more seriously ill than I presently am had it not been for the amazing people I’ve met through writing here.

In the parting words of the Ninth Doctor: you were fantastic – absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!

Farewell, my loves. Cue trite, manufactured, but tackily appropriate song from (who else but?! ;)) Lunatica.

The Secrecy of the Confessional

I don’t like surprises. They intimidate me, and require me to feel like I have to second-guess a person’s motives and intent – and, at the more extreme end of the scale, they can even feel like shocking violations (and apparently it’s not just me and my eccentricity/oddness/paranoia/whatever, so there).

It reasonably follows, therefore, that I don’t like secrets greatly either. I suppose we all have them from each other to a greater or lesser extent, but some can be big, and it is the covering up of those that I find problematic. I write a good bit about sexual abuse on this blog – that remained a perfect secret between me and Paedo for years, and is only known to a small few beyond that dubious duo even now. That’s big, and I hid it. I don’t like that I hid it. People should have known; particularly with other children exposed to the man as potential victims, it wasn’t really my secret to keep.

But before I go on an abuse-related, potentially self-vituperative tangent, let me hark back to where I wanted to go with this. Putting abuse and some of its related issues to one side, I have a pretty big secret. You know about it (yes, you do). A and my closest friend, Daniel, know about it. But my mother, one of the people to whom I’m closest in the world, doesn’t have a clue (if my investigations have been as smart as I think they have). Another close friend, Brian, is similarly oblivious. My wider family, Paedo and friends included, are also in the dark.

I am, of course, talking about this blog.

Now, on the one hand, you might say, “big deal. You throw (a few too many) words on a page once or twice a week, what does it matter whether they know or not?”

However, even though it is not today what it once was (I write less, less people visit – it happens), this blog is a major part of my life. I have an entire identity based on and built around it, and if I’m entirely honest, a lot of the issues I discuss here feed into my ‘real’ identity too. This blog is important to me; it is a life chronicle, a place to vent, a support network and an adjunctive form of psychotherapy all rolled up into one. There must be the best part of a million bloody words written here, and the site ranks highly on Google for many mentalist searches. For whatever reasons – reasons I don’t think I’ll ever entirely understand – some people seem to actually like it. It has won awards (!), for Christ’s sake, and has nearly 300,000 views (which, after two and a half years, is damn all compared to some big blogs – but which isn’t awful for a personal journal, particularly in such a niche interest arena). And how many (wo)man-hours must I have put into getting things to this point? I almost dread to think.

I’m not trying to self-aggrandise or gasconade here (not any more than normal, anyway..!); I’m simply trying to convey that the blog is a big deal in my life.

I chose the suffix ‘confessions of‘ for the site’s title quite deliberately. I know that the term, in the blogosphere at least, has become clichéd almost to the point of vulgarity, but the thing is, it is confessional for me.

Yet the confessional – a place to admit, possibly to seek redemption – is decidedly exclusionary. My mother, and a number of other pivotally important individuals in my life, haven’t the faintest idea that this even exists.

That feels incredibly fucked up to me. All children inevitably hide some things from their parents but they tend, in the grand scheme of things, to be relatively insignificant – that do you remember that night I was at “the cinema” with x and then “staying over at x‘s house” when I was 16? Yeah, I was actually at a club until 6am sort of thing that we all do – not things of key import, or things that have an enduring impact upon one’s psyche. Mum should know about a big issue in my life, and it feels so dirty and wrong and discriminatory that she does not.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell her or anything. There’s no point in ruining whatever years she has left in this world by her finding out about everything that is contained within these pages (my current obsessive mental intrusions – and I mean seriously obsessive, as in feeding into almost anything – is that she will suddenly die soon. I keep telling myself that her life expectancy can be reasonably estimated to be 80-something ((she’s 69)), given her relative health and our familial history, but reason never assuages my neurosis ((something I should well know from past experience)). Perhaps this latest manifestation of anxiety-driven batshitness is the reason for this very post). Yet, although the secrecy is necessary to spare her feelings – perhaps even her very sanity – it feels odd not to share some of the highs and lows with her. I remember when I won my first award for this blog; my first clumsy, elated instinct was to scream it at A, then to anyone on the internet that was willing to listen.

And I didn’t get to share that magical moment, and others like it, with my mother. It almost feels akin to her not seeing me going to school for the first day, or graduating from university, or having my first legal pint at the age of 18. OK, so these comparisons may sound a little bombastic, but I hope you know what I mean. My mother should (have) share(d) with me moments I considere(d) meaningful, yet in this shadowy part of my life, she has been utterly denied that opportunity.

Nevertheless, I know there are others out there that hide or have hidden their blogs and mentalist/internet alter egos from everyone in their real lives. I suppose in writing this entry I’m wondering how we can reconcile the openness and candour with which we speak on these blogs with the cladestineness that, ironically, said blogs represent in relation to certain personnel. What do you think about that? Is it a necessity for you, or do you like having a ‘secret’? And if you have managed to keep your blog private from ‘real life’ people, how have you managed it, logistically speaking? I’ve got myself in a few dangerous pickles in the past that could have revealed all to my Mum, so I know it’s not easy to keep schtum.

Just random thoughts, really.

I was going to write a ‘how things are’ scribble at this juncture of the post, but I can’t be arsed. I might try and do it tomorrow. I might not, however. Suffice to say, life is still shite but my death is unlikely to be imminent (day-long fantasies about long, sharp knives stabbing the living fuck out of my skull notwithstanding).

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Any Thoughts on Depakote or Lithium? ***¡Advice Please!***

Saw NewVCB last Wednesday morning.

Not much to report, really, and even if there was, as you’ll be able to tell from the appalling calibre of the following, I’m still not really in the form needed to competently review it.

She asked how things were and told her everything was fucked, thanks to my idiotic decision to reduce my Seroquel dosage. She checked that I was had gone back up to the 600mg dose, and I confirmed that I had, and had been doing so for about a fortnight.

Long and the short of it is that she claims it’ll take up to six weeks back on the high dose for things to start to improve. Wonderful. Well done, Pandora. It would be less annoying if it wasn’t my own fault. She encouraged me not to berate myself – she says patients do it all the time, and that if nothing else, it demonstrates to me what I do and don’t need. Well, maybe so – but I did this years ago when taking Fluoxetine, and should have learnt from that experience to leave such things to the quacks. But nooooooo. I know better, don’t I? Twat.

Anyhow, naturally she asked why I’d decided I’d half the dose. I explained about the horribleness of the hangover effects and the preposterous weight gain. I said that I’d be willing to tolerate the former for now (and as she noted, if and when I go back to work, I am more likely to get a ((post-hangover)) afternoon part-time job anyway, since most part-timers prefer mornings), but that I hated the weight gain issue because I was down to a size 16ish at one point (I hadn’t been that size since I was 16), and that having put most of it back on was pretty soul-destroying.

Her plan, then, is to wait until my mood has re-stabilised on my current medications (which seems unlikely to ever happen to me right now, but she opines to the contrary), and then we can look at how to play this in the long-term. She does, to be fair, acknowledge that even ignoring the physical issues surrounding my gargantuan size, it’s not good for my mental health to see 14 rolls lopping down around my knees, hiding even the briefest glimpse of my toes and their ingrowing nails. What she has suggested is reducing, though not eliminating, the Seroquel – and then adding in a mood stabiliser to make up for the loss of those same properties from said drug.

She specifically named Lithium and Depakote, though she expressed a mild reluctance regarding the latter; she laughed and said that she knew I was filled with abhorrence at the mere mention of breeding, but that nevertheless, she had to be very, very careful about the prescription of the thing to ‘fertile females’ on a ‘just in case’ basis. Apparently it can seriously fuck up a foetus/embryo.

I really don’t give a fuck about that, as – as she rightly noted, though I’m not sure how she figured it out as I don’t recall ever discussing it with her – I fully intend to never become pregnant. However, I think I read somewhere that it can interfere with the mini-pill, which I take as a contraceptive and fuck-off-menstruation-and-related-pain medication. A quick look just now has suggested that it doesn’t stop it working, but could increase levels of hormones in one’s body. Which could be a bit wank as I’m not unconvinced that oestrogen has an effect on mentalism, specifically depression (sometimes of the particularly vile variety known as ‘agitated’).

She did say, though, that she would prescribe it (regardless of my presumed ability to conceive) if she thought it best, on the balance of the foetus issue versus its active psychiatric indications. I was initially quite encouraged by this, because I’m not sure how I feel about Lithium: I’ve heard of others gaining weight on it (and one friend was constantly ill whilst taking it), so what would be the point in cutting the Seroquel (which I know works)? So, I thought, bring on the Depakote. Except that, since then, I’ve read the article on it on Net Doctor and see that it too can cause weight gain!

So, maybe either it or Lithium would mitigate the undeniably shitty hangover effects of Seroquel, but it’s quite possible my main concern would not be assuaged in any way. So what would be the point in modifying my current cocktail which, whilst problematic, has shown itself to work very well in terms of its indicated usages, only to find myself at the mercy of the same cunty side effects I’d hoped to avoid anyway?

All that said, I have known people to take mood stabilisers (Lithium in particular) who’ve found that it completely changed their life. Indeed, the Net Doctor article on it states that it’s a very good medication to take to boost the effects of pre-existing anti-depressants. So if I could get my depression and its related anhedonia/lethargy/etc to sod off (it’s never really gone away – it’s only got a bit less shit), then I might be more willing to leave the house and get some exercise to combat any extra weight anyway. But that’s a bit of a punt, really.

Have any of you any experience of Lithium and/or Depakote, and if so, what’s your view on it/them – both in terms of how they help (or don’t) psychologically, and on what the side effects are? If you take an alternative mood stabiliser (whether a ‘true’ mood stabiliser or an anti-convulsant) and you’ve found it useful and/or lacking in side effects, could you tell me a bit about it too please?

NewVCB also mentioned other anti-psychotics such as Risperidone, which typically have lesser weight issues than Seroquel. However, as a form of anti-compensation for that, you lose the mood stabilisation, so one such medication would again presumably be needed in that circumstance.

Despite my dreadful mood, I managed to crack a joke during the appointment, and was pleased to make her laugh. She asked me about suicidal ideation, and I told her all I could think about was my body flying off the Golden Gate Bridge or the high-rise apartment blocks close to my house.

“But don’t worry,” I added drolly. “I suffer from vertigo*, so…”

(* And it is ((usually, though not always, height-triggered)) vertigo, as opposed to acrophobia. I don’t really have the latter, bizarrely).

She laughed out loud, caught herself on and apologised, then started laughing (almost hysterically) again. I told her it was meant to be humourous and to laugh away. I like humour in this arena. I remember once ages ago that C cracked a joke (oh look – it was my very first therapy post. How quaint) about how my footballing allegiances were not at all good for my mental health (especially true that fucking season) – a comment made viscerally, for which he then apologised. Fuck that. Don’t apologise! Joke away. I mean, if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to fucking cry.

Anyway, medication issues aside, I handed NewVCB a copy of my last post, and that coupled with her usual questioning determined that I am “very clearly” in the midst of a major depressive episode. However, at least A and Mum are usually about somewhere, and my suicidality is operating “at fantasy level”, so there is unlikely to be any “danger”. I’d say that the lack of danger comes more from avolition and apathy rather than anything else, but there you have it. I shall, most likely, remain alive for the next while.

As I left the appointment (having managed to blag myself a script for Diazepam – which frankly I don’t particularly need, but insurance is always good) she said, for the second time since I first met her, “nice to see you, Pandora.”

Incidentally, the first time she gave me a complimentary goodbye of this nature, I was also similarly mental to last week (and both occasions were caused by fluctuations in medication, rather than being distinct ‘episodes’ in their own right). Why do I find that probably coincidental and innocuous fact so intriguing and revealing?

In other news – I haven’t written anything in the last week…BUT! I’ve had this laptop completely closed – it’s literally not been open once – since…fuck, I don’t know, last weekend? Although I have tweeted some articles and suchlike, I haven’t checked Twitter at all (ditto G+ and the odious Facebook). In this complete abandon of social media, I’ve been working on The Book. I’ve not written anything, as noted, but I have been studying the distance learning writing course I enrolled on when I first went off work a few years ago, and have been especially concentrating on the modules on novel composition. Much of it seems obvious – although this blog is factual and autobiographical, sometimes the narrative of posts takes on a tone similar to fiction, so I feel I have some pre-existing understanding of the idea. However, there has also been a lot of benefit in what I’ve studied to date, and I feel cautiously confident about The Book and its plot at the minute.

Furthermore, in my absence from internet sociability, for some reason I’ve been internally bombarded with quite a number of creative fictional ideas that I think I can turn into short stories, novellas, or perhaps a second The Book. There’s one about which I’m especially hopeful, which was garnered from a disturbed, haunting dream this very morning. At least nightmares have some purpose!

On Thursday, Wendy Perriam, whose excellent book Broken Places I reviewed for Mind, emailed me to thank me for said review. This was a wonderful buoyancy both for my own sake and for that of my writing (which Wendy was kind enough to compliment, which was incredibly flattering coming not just from a published author, but also from a published author who I hold in high regard). I asked her for a few tips, which she kindly gave me, and it’s added to my sense of ‘I can do this and it won’t be completely crap’. I’m not undaunted by any means, but neither am I totally petrified of my own potential incapacity.

The weekend was quite good. I’d been apathetic about going to one of our regularly organised poker nights on Friday because that meant fucking seeing people, but in the end it was fairly good craic – and guess what? Muggins won 😀 It’s my first win in a long time but it sees me atop the leader board. I’m the only woman in the whole group, yet the stats show me as the best player. Suck it up, gents!

On Saturday we met W, A’s best friend who was back in Norn Iron from England for the weekend, and ended up spending all day talking complete and utter bollocks and laughing at puerile nonsense. It was good. In keeping with what’s been occupying my own life lately, I suggested a writing challenge to W and A, an idea that both seemed to embrace for their own reasons of escapism and intellect. As well as just being fun (what even is that?), I think this could be useful in terms of my self-imposed deadlines – if A and W are in competition, I am going to be more driven to compete within this cause myself.

So, all in all, ostensibly things are good – but the reality, of course, is far from as black and white as that. I’m back into a firm agoraphobic, hide-in-the-house-and-brood-with-the-blinds-closed mode. But I’m keeping up with the studying element of my (hopefully) soon-to-be The Book, so there’s a sliver of a silver lining (try saying that after six pints of pale ale).

I’m seeing Christine tomorrow. She asked me, the last time I saw her, to do two things before tomorrow’s appointment: (a) ask Daniel to write me a reference for the voluntary position I was considering applying for and (b) get in touch with Nexus again to organise my second stint of therapy with Paul. Re: (a)…well, I have asked Daniel for the reference, to which he has agreed. However, I’ve not filled in anything of the application form, which therefore renders the request redundant. As for (b)…no chance.

Normally speaking, it seems like an uphill battle (at a bloody 85° slant) to acknowledge the mere existence of others, which both of Christine’s challenges require. I simply can’t face any communication without A holding my hand (literally and metaphorically). Beyond reading, I can’t really do anything off my own bat, and even if I could, I wouldn’t enjoy a milisecond of it. I haven’t had a bath in about a month. I keep trying to rewatch Babylon 5, but I can’t concentrate on it. I’m scared, I’m low, and I’m so, so tired. But I have something to cling to, for now at least.

Anyway, any advice you have on Depakote, Lithium or indeed any other mood stabilisers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks folks.

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Futility

Don’t read this if you’re in a bad mood or have an aversion to pointless, inane, self-indulgent whining.

Breathing. Awake – awake almost all the time. Out of bed – somehow. Eating – just. Disillusioned. Hermitting. Ruminating, especially during the wee small hours, swathed as I am in darkness, both literal and figurative, about suicide – spent all last night thinking about the film The [Golden Gate] Bridge, and kept seeing my body flying off it. Too exhausted and fed up to do anything about it, not enough money to buy petrol never mind a flight to California (jumping from GGB causes a horrid death anyhow. There are better ways to go). Avoiding laptop as if it carried Ebola (I haven’t opened it since Thursday or Friday and this is being written on my phone) – I’m positively belligerent towards the poor, innocent thing right now, which is most unusual. Weepy – again, most unlike me. Obsessed with idea that my mother will die – it fills with me with a profoundly horrified dread and deep sorrow that I cannot quantify. Very worried about her on a more rational level due to an arthritis flare-up. Triggered and disturbed by a few things I’ve seen lately. Possibly experiencing tactile hallucinations, but not sure. No other obvious psychotic symptoms. IBS, migraines and knee pain strongly in evidence. Back and neck aren’t good either. Psychosomatic, I suppose. Same nett effect as if issues were organic, though. Intoxicated by the sounds of the wind and the rain – the only positive release and escapism other than reading. Yes, reading! Shockingly I can do this, for which I give my heartfelt and eternal thanks to God(s) in whom I don’t believe. Can’t write, as this spiel of complete shit attests. Lonely but paradoxically desperately desirous of no social interaction at all. Shut down FB – more particularly, not using Twitter or G+, which means things are bad. No idea what’s going on outside my tiny little house and really, honestly, truly don’t care. An aberration for a news and current affairs junkie, surely.

I’ve been at best ambivalent and at worst actively hostile about the future of this blog lately. I go through periods where I loathe it, then others where I remember how truly important to me it is, and how markedly therapeutic it has generally been. I was going to delete the whole thing on Friday night, then again on Saturday, but must have retained some semblance of sanity because I realised (admittedly with some advice from Twitter) that I wasn’t in the correct frame of mind to make a big decision like that.

But I might take a break. Might not. Can’t say. Can’t think straight, don’t care about much, in love with the idea of complete unconsciousness, too fatigued to be angry, useful, or remotely coherent or interesting company.

Odd sense of déjà vu.

Psychiatrist in morning. Logically know this is timely and necessary, realistically dreading the living fuck out of it. Mother’s house afterwards. Unfortunately some McFauls will be there. Cannot avoid them as I need to make sure mother is OK. Hopefully there will be no Paedo though. Christine next week some time. Have so far failed to contact Nexus about renewing therapy as I promised her I would, because I’m avoiding contact with anyone (other that A, in person, and mother, by text message), regardless of reason.

Sorry this is such an unmitigated pile of hot, steaming wankshit. Thought I ought to advise those of you that inexplicably give a damn about me that I do, in fact, still exist. Thanks for comments on recent posts, tweets if you’ve sent them (I haven’t checked, sorry) and whatnot. You do mean a lot to me, I hope you all do know that – I just can’t be part of this world right now.

Much love

Pan ❤ xxx

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Agoraphobic Persecutory Delusions of Familial Evil and Seroquel. Etc.

In the absence of Paul – I know I’m still catching up on writing about my final few sessions with him, but they did in fact finish about three weeks ago – I’ve been seeing Christine at fortnightly intervals. The last appointment was last week.

Although things have been generally going OK, as testified by this blog throughout recent months, over the last week or so they’ve taken a slight downwards turn. As things stand, I can manage it;I suppose it could perhaps be a mild depression (by my standards – I think that probably equates to moderate by official scales? [EDIT: I am correct, apparently. I just took this test again and scored 52, which is within the bracket of ‘moderate to severe’ depression. Well, it’s better than having gotten 82 back in February, I suppose..!]), but we’ll see.

I guessed that the whitecoats would claim that my mood dip was reactive, for the following reasons:

  1. the cessation of the treatment with Paul;
  2. the burglary; and
  3. the fact (as yet unmentioned on this journal) that FuckBitch Queen of All Levels of Hell Aunt of Evil arrived in the country on Wednesday morning (more on this anon).

Appointment With Christine

I guessed correctly. It didn’t come as massive shock to the system when Christine carefully opined that it was “hardly surprising” that I “wasn’t at” myself. In my view, my moods are, by and large, non-reactive (I’ve always maintained, and I continue to maintain, that my particular blend of clinical depression is melancholic rather than atypical), but I can see why she came to the conclusion she did. I’m not saying the above has not affected my mental status at all, but I think this goes in cycles too. Interestingly, NewVCB seemed to primarily agree with me, but I’ll get to her later.

I was with Christine for quite a while, though not quite as long as the last time I saw her. In a supposedly surreptitious fashion, she kept glancing at her watch, which mildly irritated me, but I do appreciate that she has other people to see. Anyhow. We discussed how I’m feeling in the wake of the end of therapy (fine, though I’m not sure she was convinced of that, given that she kept bleating on what a “big deal” it apparently was for me), how I’d dealt with the burglary (relatively well) and medication.

Seroquel has been a wonderful drug for me. It really has made my life a lot better. However, predictably for an anti-psychotic, it has sent my appetite completely out of control, and a lot of weight I’d lost has piled right back on. It wasn’t always like this, though; I’ve been taking Seroquel for about a year and a half now, and it’s only since the dosage was increased to 600mg daily that this has happened. I did a fair bit of whinging about it to Christine.

The long and the short of it was that I should discuss the issue with NewVCB (well, I’d never have thought of that…), but – reasonably enough – Christine thinks that this would be the wrong time to reduce my dose of the stuff. I agreed that I’d like to retain this level of relative stability for several more months before I’d seriously consider reducing it, particularly if there are likely to be stressful events hovering about.

She kept emphasising how important it was that I remained free from psychosis. In light of our last meeting, where she said that NewVCB was reconsidering my previous diagnosis of BPD, I am now wondering if they think that I actually have some sort of specifically psychotic illness – Christine, at least, puts very heavy emphasis on that side of things. She’s worried that if I started reducing my intake of Seroquel that all the voices and visions would come flooding back. Her concern troubles me, because when she heard that I had suffered from command hallucinations and hadn’t been sectioned (or voluntarily admitted) at any point in my life, she was utterly stunned. So if I go mental again, if ‘They‘ come back or some other(s) turn up, will she recommend the bin for me?

Am I Still Proper Mental?

She asked me if I was still free from the voices, and I was pleased to respond in the affirmative. But then she asked me about possible delusional thinking. I denied any, but I must have shifted my eyes suspiciously because she kept probing me about it. I admitted, then, that yeah – I might just have a little bit of paranoia hovering about. Might. Just maybe. Perhaps.

In an admission of narcissism that shocks even me, I blathered on about how GCHQ read this blog, and about how people still have cameras up watching me. The funny thing about the cameras is that they go wherever I go. Yeah, I am really that important!

Naturally, Christine enquired as to the strength of these alleged delusions. I said that I rationally knew they were a load of bollocks, but that…well, that I still had the fear that the “paranoia” was grounded in at least some truth. For example, I have a friend, William, who’s a policeman. None of us know exactly what it is that he does, because it’s some shady, cloak-and-dagger, national security-esque thing that requires his utmost discretion and a solemn vow never to speak about it in detail to anyone. What he has told us, though, is that the amount the security services know about people, their movements, their online habits, etc is truly shocking. He also confirmed that yes, they probably are scouring insignificant online bullshit like this blog – though he contends that it’s probably based on keyword searches, patterns and the like, rather than some agent sitting in a dimly-lit room in Cheltenham reading every word that people like me are typing.

You see? As the old adage goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not watching you.

I told Christine about all this, and of course she pointed out that, given that this is a public blog, it probably could be read by GCHQ and their kin. However, she picked up on William’s point that it’s unlikely to be in any detail, unless something suspect comes up. She laughingly asked if I had somehow threatened national security in my writing of this blog, and I had to concede that I haven’t. She sorted of tilted her head as if to say “I told you so,” and then started quizzing me about the cameras.

“I know the cameras aren’t there,” I said, exasperated with myself, “but I just can’t shake off this stupid irrational belief that they are.” I’m a walking conta-fucking-diction.

As I said to her, in a way having this kind of insight is almost worse than being completely under the control of a delusion. Not that I’m saying the latter is nice – far fucking from it. But when you know that your beliefs are (potentially) psychotic (is it even psychotic at all in that case?), then you have the added pressure of arguing with yourself about the damn thing all the time. You might as well have one of those tossers that doesn’t believe in mental illness with you at all times, telling you to “wise up” and “pull yourself together”. The rational, ‘well’ side of my mind isn’t particularly sympathetic to the sicker part.

The upshot of the conversation, though, was that the “paranoia” isn’t too intrusive. It doesn’t stop me from doing things I want to do (no, anhedonia, avolition and agoraphobia are the culprits there), and most of the time it’s operating at a fairly peripheral level rather than being right in the middle of my conscious mind. Christine seemed mostly satisfied with this, though I suspect she’ll be coming back to this issue at each session for the next foreseeable future.

Rant: Aunt of Evil is on this Landmass!

We then moved on to an issue about which I was, according to her, “very angry”. I thought I’d been speaking perfectly reasonably and rationally, but Christine did not concur. The topic in question was the arrival of Aunt of Evil in this country. Those of you that have been reading this in the long term may realise that this means that this is the third time the stupid fucking bitch has been here in less than two and a half years. If you’re not so intimately acquainted with this blog, or indeed if you’re a normal human being who doesn’t have a photographic memory for bullshit, I have a long running dispute with the woman and her immediate family. They reside in the USA, and frankly their existence in Ireland makes me wish that air travel had never been invented (other than for the flight that sent them across the pond in the first place, that is).

The story of my feud with Aunt of Evil, Georgie, is a protracted and convoluted one that I’ve never discussed fully here – not because I have a problem with any of you knowing about it, but simply because other people’s familial dramas are really not that interesting. Indeed, most of it is not that interesting even to me, so I’m not going to waste my time or bandwidth or put myself at even greater risk of repetitive strain injury by detailing it all. You can see contextual posts here, here, here and here. There’s probably more, but those links should give enough information, and I can’t be arsed going through any more archives.

Now, of course given my history with Aunt of Evil and her spawn, I am not going anywhere near any of them. In that way, their presence doesn’t particularly bother me – but what does is that I know that (a) Aunt of Evil (AoE) has a skewed perception of why it is that I loathe her, and have no time for her family and (b) I will be talked about between them all, behind my back, despite my express fucking instructions to my mother – and to AoE herself – that I am not a suitable subject for their conversation.

My ma told me the other week that AoE has been going around whinging that V, the deceased lump of shite that forcefully donated his sperm in order to facilitate my conception, “has achieved something in death that he didn’t in life – the breaking up of the family.”

This fucking enraged me. AoE has always been a wanker, and I’ve never liked her. However, given that she purports to be a Christian and should therefore have a corresponding set of morals, I did expect her to at least behave honourably when V snuffed it. I did not expect V himself to behave thus, in life or in death, so her contention is completely erroneous. V was a cunt. I expected him to behave like a cunt. I did not expect her, her offspring and her offspring’s mate, to be have like cunts. And they did.

What is so fucking difficult to understand about that? It’s not fucking about V. It’s about them. Simple.

I advised my mother in no uncertain terms to appraise AoE of the above – but I don’t think that she will. My mother is lovely, but she is, in this instance, also a hypocrite. She agrees with my position on AoE and her twatpack, yet she has quite happily arranged to see them, have them stay with her, etc etc. In fairness to her, she has this idea that [cue best EastEnders-esque put-on accent] faaaahhhmmmlaayyy is one of the most important things that an individual can have on this Earth. I respect her view, but I fundamentally disagree with it. One of our friends, G (of intellectual fame, waaaaaaaay back in 2009), put it best:

Family is genetics; friendship is earned.

Quite. I don’t get this societal obsession with family for its own sake. If the people concerned are nice, if you have something in common with them, if they’re a laugh, whatever – fine. If not, why bother? Seriously. I don’t understand it. What ties do you have to such people other than DNA?

I so wish I could show you my cousin’s wife’s blog, so that you could have a laugh (or, indeed, recoil in repulsion) at her utterly nauseating nice-middle-class-ism, and pictures of the nice house that they bought with the money that should have gone to my mother and me (tangential point of amusement: she has 23 blog ‘fans’ on Fuckbook. I’m not exactly some bigshot on the hateful service myself, but at least I have over 670. Mwhahahahaha! :D). I see from said blog that she’s up the duff again. I wonder how they’re funding that brat Gift from God?

No, no, no – I’m not bitter or anything 😉

Aaaaaaaanyway, I gave Christine a redacted version of the story, and as I said, I thought I’d been fairly calm and reasonable in my narration thereof. It certainly wasn’t a rant like the last few paragraphs here were! However, when I’d finished, she said, “you’re clearly angry about this.”

Well…yeah. I sort of am. I then proceeded to rant a good bit about V, justifying my view that he was a knobend of Rupert Murdoch proportions by referencing his actions towards my mother during the joke that was their marriage. I said that I was furious with AoE for believing that my problem with her and her family was about him because, as noted, no one expected V not to be a dick.

She was curious as to why I care about what someone I can’t stand thinks of me, which was a fair question. The answer is that it’s not so much about what AoE thinks of me – she still “loves” me according to My Mother the Messenger, but I really couldn’t care less whether she adored or despised me – but, rather, about her consistent and unwavering failure to accept responsibility for her actions. She still thinks that what she and her family did is right. It was legally permissible, I’ll give her that. It was, however, ethically repugnant.

None of this, of course, even acknowledges my more general, more long-lasting disdain for AoE. She is self-righteous, patronising and a Queen proselythiser (she’s one of the key reasons that I had such a profound and blanket hatred of Christians until I met lovely people like Phil Groom and bourach). Once, when she asked Mum why I didn’t like her, my mother – bless her – was honest, and told her exactly that. AoE affected to be shocked by this information, but honestly – on this side of the Atlantic there is no one in this shittily sprawling dynasty of mine, including my mother and the other Bible bashers like Suzanne, that strongly disagrees with my stance on that.

Back to the Fucking Point, Pan…

To get back to the original point of this post, Christine feels that it is a positive thing that I am avoiding these people; I know my limits, apparently, and “not everybody does, you know.” Nevertheless, given my levels of resentment, anger and general frustration towards them, she also thinks that this is a massive stressor for me. Perhaps it must seem that way – the rant above would appear to be clear and present testament to that – but I actually don’t think it is. I’m staying out of their way, and as long as my mother does not provide me with a running commentary on all the inevitable back-biting, I am happy to sit here at A’s in my blissful ignorance until they all sod away off again.

The appointment was basically left with her saying that if my mood dips any further before I see her again (next Friday), I can contact her, presumably to arrange an emergency appointment. NewVCB (after this week) is off for about 408 years – Christine says that all the consultants just disappear over the summer – so it’s good to at least have some professional support, especially when I don’t have Paul to bleat to. I better not go really mental though, because if it were to come to the bit and some SHO or other had to assess me, he or she would inevitably take advice from Christine as the only present person within the CMHT that knows me. And as I noted above, Christine is stunned I’ve never been binned.

So. I must retain a modicum of sanity at least until NewVCB is back from her summer gallivanting.

Speaking of her…

Appointment with NewVCB

This is Friday (albeit only into its early hours). I saw NewVCB first thing on Wednesday morning (9.30am) and felt that the appointment went fairly well. I told her that things weren’t quite as positive as the last time I’d seen her (which I didn’t record here at all, because I was in and out within minutes, and all was deemed to be well), but also said that I was happy to leave my medication as it was, and that if the downer got worse or, indeed, if it lengthily prevailed, then we could possibly reconsider this at a future appointment. She seemed to think this was a fairly sensible course of action.

I did raise the weight gain on my current dosage of Seroquel issue with her however, whilst stressing that I didn’t want to reduce the dose right now. She agreed that this was something we could think about over the coming months; according to her, a standard maintenance dose of the stuff is usually 300mg. That said, I wouldn’t like to whack the dose in half at any point, even if life was absolutely fucking amazing, so if that’s where we ultimately want to return to, then I’d have to insist that we slowly taper it down. She’s not stupid, though, so I’m sure she’d agree with that.

I told her that I was worried that, if we go ahead and do this at some point, the voices would return. “At the end of the day,” I said, “I’d rather carry some extra weight that be persecuted by ‘They’.” She nodded her assent to this, and added that in a case like mine – where the mental illness may remit at times, but usually returns in some fashion – it would be fine to have xmg as a maintenance dose, but that it would at times be necessary to whack it back up.

It sounds odd, but I was quite pleased by this statement. I took it as recognition on NewVCB’s part that my mental health problems are chronic and recurrent, and not necessarily the reactive issues that Christine had perhaps suggested (though I’d add that I don’t think that Christine thinks it’s all reactive – just that that, to her, is probably part of it, and maybe it is). This isn’t me saying, “yay, it’s all biological,” because clearly it isn’t (even if it was then that would be pretty shit – therapy would be an utter waste of time, would it not?); would I be so fucked up were it not for the ‘trauma’ I experienced? Probably not to this degree. But I’ve always maintained that I hold to a biopsychosocial model of mentalism, and she seems to concur with that.

Of course, therapy has helped me a lot, hence the ‘psychosocial’ bit. But, as I am forever banging on, I don’t believe in cures. Therapy – and medication for that matter – may help to reduce both the severity and frequency of episodes, but that doesn’t mean that the whole sorry business is dead and buried.

Anyhow, this led onto a conversation about suicidal ideation. Christine is usually concerned when I say something like, “but of course I still have suicidal thoughts, how could I not?” NewVCB, on the other hand, says she wouldn’t even believe me if I went in one day and said that I absolutely wasn’t suicidal in the least. As she says, the horrific intensity of my preoccupation with ending my life that I’ve often experienced will not always be present, but she believes – in the short to medium term, at least – that there will be probably always be some level of it.

That’s a pretty poor prognosis, I suppose, but I’d rather she was honest with me. I’ve always respected her for her candour, and even if she’s not painting the rosiest picture in creation, better that than false hope and lies.

She said that I should use this period of relative stability to think about what I can do when things go tits up again. Well, I’ve thought about it, and I haven’t a fucking clue. One thing NewVCB suggested was that I should keep the idea with me, for the next time I’m standing on the edge of some cliff with a bottle of gin and 20 packets of Zopiclone, that I have come back from the absolute brink (remember the 4th October plan, anyone?) and that therefore I don’t need to take the jump. “Use this period as a reminder when you’re that low again,” she instructed. “You can, and you have, recovered from very severe suicidality.”

Spot on: I have. However, I know from bitter experience that the mind of a person at that kind of hideously low ebb does not think like this. Well, the omni-present rational narrator in my head would certainly say, “but look, remember how well you did in mid-2011?” but the depressed side is always going to dominate that with responses such as, “yeah, but that was then, this is different. I can’t recover this time,” or even “so what? I don’t want to recover anyway.” You might very well think that both of these (and other possible) responses are thoroughly illogical, but that’s how severe depression works I’m afraid. Indeed, continuing my standing-at-the-abyss scenario, I could look down over the cliff, knowing that The Rational Narrator was right and that everything else was a crock of shit. And it wouldn’t make an iota of bloody difference.

Still, she has a point, and I’ll try to do as she says. One thing I have now that I didn’t have when I had a major crash-and-burn in the past is this blog; one crucial thing about it is that for the first time I have a proper record of something that approximates recovery, or at least a road to relative wellness. Perhaps those positive words, penned (typed) by my very own hand, could make a difference? I’m not convinced of it, but you never know.

We spent some time discussing this journal actually. NewVCB alluded to it in the context of it being one of the things that had helped me when I felt at my worst, but was careful to remind me of the dangers of becoming too immersed in the online and mentalist world, rather than in the supposedly real and sane one.

I laughed, and told her that since I’ve been feeling better, the amount of visitors here has gone way down. I still get about 200 hits on days on which I don’t post and often over double that when I do. This is far more than I ever could have expected when I embarked on this narcissistic but cathartic pursuit, and don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to and for every person that takes an interest in this bollocks. Compared to my hits when I was posting my most morbid, morose material, though, things are definitely much less popular. I don’t mind that – I just thing it’s an interesting statistic.

In any case, I assured her that I think I’ve achieved a good balance between being here, being Pandora, and being there, being me, in the “real world”. She asked me if I was getting out much.

Ha! As if. I’ll go out alone for little errands, such as buying milk or something, if I’m feeling game. Otherwise I won’t leave the house without A, or at least without the promise of meeting someone I know well. Even then, there’s some difficulties.

I was due to meet Brian, one of my close friends, on Monday evening. Realising, however, that I would actually have to go out and, shock horror, talk to Brian, I backed out and made a frankly idiotic excuse to avoid him. (Contrast this with my intended meeting with Aaron on Wednesday, which I was going to until fate intervened. I bring this up because never, never, never ever ever ever, have Aaron and I been able meet based on our original arrangements. Something always comes up. Famine or feast, eh?).

I admitted to NewVCB that I’m sometimes genuinely scared of seeing my/our friends. Naturally she asked why, and naturally I said that I didn’t know.

She said, to paraphrase, that I need to really take some time to work out the specifics of this social and agoraphobia. I agree that the roots of it need to be uncovered, but I thought that was what therapy was for. Oh, wait. The NHS won’t fucking give me therapy, and Nexus deals with sexual abuse issues rather than this sort of fuckwittery. So basically I’m screwed.

Maybe I’ll try and look at this through writing in a future post here. I can’t seem to get the thoughts that need to be…er…thought…into my my head with any modicum of coherence, and sometimes writing about thoughts can be more revelatory than thoughts in themselves.

And that was pretty much it. Since NewVCB is on holiday now for a good while, she said she’d see me again towards the end of August or start of September. That’s a little longer a gap than I usually have between my appointments with her, but not too much so. And it’s still a fuck of a lot better than the erratic scheduling her predecessor afforded me.

Meh and Blah and Yadda and Etc and Such

If you’re still reading this, you really must have a strong interest in self-flagellatory pursuits  – but seriously, thank you. I don’t know if anyone has the lack of wit to care about me, but if you are thus afflicted, please don’t worry. I’m OK. Really, I’m mostly OK. People have downers, whether they’re mental or not. It could be a mild ‘episode’, it could be the start of something more serious, or it could be just one of those things that happens from time to time. Indeed, I’m feeling a good bit better than I was on, say, Wednesday, so it’s probably nothing much – I mentioned it to Christine and NewVCB on a ‘just in case’ basis, I suppose. I’ll be fine.

As you might imagine, sleep is an issue for someone whose blog is entitled Confessions of a Serial Insomniac. Generally, one of the most positive side effects of Seroquel has been its soporific effects, but the downside of same is the hangover the stuff gives you the following day.

The fact, therefore, that I’d been up really early from Monday to Thursday inclusive is probably not insignificant. After the burglary, we had to replace the two doors that the robbing cunts smashed through; one was in a room that has a second (undamaged) door that we also decided to change for the sake of aesthetic consistency. The bloke we got to to do the work arrived each morning bright and early, and I had to be up to greet him, make the obligatory cups of tea and share the obligatory cigarettes. It hasn’t been a particularly unpleasant effort – he’s a nice man – but it has resulted in severe fatigue. That, in turn, can be a major issue vis a vis mentalism.

Next week sees Northern Ireland’s Lovely Loyalist Love-in, the Twelfth (or, as one council is trying to politically correctly re-market it, “Orangefest”), come to pass. I have nothing particularly against the occasion despite my unionist-nationalist ambivalence (although, of course, I do loathe the contingent of wankers that set about causing trouble around this time of year – utter cunts), but neither do I care for it either. There are two days’ holidays, though, which from a practical point of view means that our door-hanger – soon-to-be our painter and decorator – can’t come out next week. So, in this way, Orangeism has done me a favour. It will allow me and my Seroquel-addled mind to rest.

Anyway, this is the abrupt end of this stupidly but predictably long post. Cheerio.

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Blog Carnival of Mental Health, June 2011: Hope and Despair

Welcome to this month’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health, on the topic of hope and despair. They are, ostensibly, a simple couple of concepts – but within each, there is a lot to be said across the Madosphere.

So let’s see what our entrants made of it. Please be aware of potential triggers in the following, particularly in relation to suicide. Thank you to everyone that has taken part, and to all that tweeted, Facebooked or otherwise promoted the Carnival; it was much appreciated. In no particular order:

Turquoise, author of theurbanworrier, discusses the liberating feeling of travel…and how, sadly, her senses of wonder and triumph have been replaced by her descent into depression:

…it’s like a journey of life: how on this 300/800/more kilometre walk on pilgrimmage routes that have been travelled by thousands of people over hundreds of years, you just have to take each step as it comes, and meet each challenge as it presents itself, live with just the stuff you can carry (ie, literally in your backpack as well as mentally). That although there is reasonably good signage *you* will get lost sometimes. You will have problems, sometimes the worst ones you as a person could cope with. But you will learn to deal with these, and learn that you *can* cope. How you have to trust that your needs will be met; that you’ll find water, and food, and somewhere to sleep. That language is no barrier; that we are all people with a common ultimate goal, with the same needs, hopes, and desires. That you can only walk at your own pace; sometimes that means your journey is solo, but at the end of the day, you are never alone, and your camino family is like all the relationships you will ever have.

But that was then. As anyone who has had the misfortune to be traipsing around in my blogland recently, the optimism of hope just hasn’t applied. That whilst I’ve *been* in great places, and was hopeful I’d get back there, it really ain’t gonna happen. This month has seen little cause for hope, and much much more for despair. I seem to be pretty stuck in a downward spiral with the madness really taking over, but the really sucky thing is that it’s been contrasted by some things and people which are so damn rock you wouldn’t believe it. But you don’t want to read about despair, mine, or anyone else’s. It’s shit.

Ash, a commenter here, has emailed the following contribution, which has left me sad but encouraged in equal measure:

‘D’ is for despair and also depression. In my case I naively thought it was a one off event; post-natal depression after the birth of my child. How could this be happening to me? We had wanted this for so long and yet when it finally happened it came along with a side order of depression. I struggled to admit to it. I refused at first to take any medication but then I had to surrender to the truth and -take time off work!

A few years ago my husband suffered a stroke at the age of 37 which left him registered blind. Immediately my symptoms returned.

Here entereth despair. For me now it seems that when something traumatic or stressful at all occurs, depression tightens its grip and I hate it. I was a confident, outgoing person who ok, worried a little about “stuff” but was very positive. Now my head is constantly filled with negative thoughts. I can’t look on the bright side anymore and the rage within me is unbearable. I have lost myself and hate what I’ve become…but hold on…

…Hope – it is out there. Over the past eighteen months I’ve been going to a therapist who has been guiding me along this difficult path. I have the support of my family and close friends. I have my faith. Most of all I have realised that I am not alone. As I trawled the internet I read similar stories. Depression I have found is something that people find difficult to understand if they’ve never experienced themselves, but by reading other sufferers’ blogs and accounts it has given me hope.

I’m so glad the Madosphere (amongst other things) has restored some of your hope, Ash 🙂

sanabituranima, author of <a href="Sanabitur Anima Mea, takes an insightful and fascinating look at mental illness within the context of her religion of Catholicism:

Depression is not a sin. It has never been considered a sin. It is an illness (and usually a treatable one.) When my Church tells me despair is a sin, it does not mean depression, extreme sadness, or a lack of joy and enthusiasm are morally wrong. These things may be, and often are, things that make me tempted to despair, but they are not despair in the theological sense of the word. If you are a Catholic, despair means that you allow your emotions to stop you trusting in God. I may not feel like God is on my side and that I might as well give up and die but as long as I let my faith and my reason to overpower that feeling, I still have the virtue of hope. It is important to understand that, because I have come across Catholics and other Christians who believed they were sinning by experiencing a mental illness. This is like believing that coughing is sinful.

I have faith that Jesus will pull me out of this. Not that He will magically make it go away. In the early days, I hoped for an instant, miraculous cure – but I really wanted a miraculous escape. I believe God has a purpose I cannot yet perceive in testing me in this way. As Saint Paul said ”We glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience trial; and trial hope; And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.”

Astrid, on her DID-focused blog A Multitude of Musings, discusses her fears surrounding death, and how she now has hope for the future despite them:

Three years ago, I was convinced I would not make it to the end of the year 2008. Everyone kept telling me that I’d find a good place to live in the long run, and yet I believed I was going to die before then. So the hope that people tried to give me, turned to false hope and despair.

Now, I’ve made it three years since then. I still feel sometimes that I’m having a foreshortened future, but I realize this is probably a PTSD trait coupled with despair from it having taken so long for me to find a suitable living place.

Now in September I’ll be moving to a new place that is hopefully suited for my needs. It took years for me and my staff to find this place, but I think it will finally be somewhat safe there. I will also get married this September. Finally, it seems there is hope for the future. Now if only I could overcome my fear that I’m going to die as soon as I finally feel better again.

Jonathan Alter, who chronicles his story of life with mental illness and after trauma here, thoughtfully describes the development of the tumour he thought he had on his brain:

Not long after my son’s birth, around the age of 47, I started to get sick. I was a pastor of a small church in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I could be hiking on the Appalachian Trail in a matter of minutes. It was an absolutely beautiful place to live! This small country church where I served was filled with the greatest people on the earth. I loved them. We grew close together through suffering; like a family that comes together at the death of a parent or a child. Once I arrived at my new church, it seemed that everyone had waited just long enough, so that they could die and have a pastor there to care for them and bury them properly. The old started dying one after the other. There were suicides. There were strange diseases brought about through environmental pollution. Cancer was everywhere. And we held each other, cried together, and relished the beauty of joy when it came to us amidst so many dark days.

Finally [after experiencing a range of somatic as well as psychological symptoms], I came up with the only solution that made sense to me. I was dying of a brain tumor, and it was growing at a pretty good pace. My father was a surgeon and I had heard of some of the symptoms before… The headaches were increasing. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t concentrate. My ability to write was deteriating. I was having trouble walking and standing. I couldn’t sleep. At times it was hard to understand what others were saying to me, and my environment started to take on a kind of surreal nature.

He asked me a couple of strange questions such as, “Do you find that you cry all of sudden? Have you been thinking about death more than usual? What has your mood been like?” And incredibly, about five minutes into the exam, instead of being sent immediately to get an MRI, I was being diagnosed with Depression. I was stunned! “How could that be? What about all the physical aspects of my symptoms? What about my headaches? Are you absolutely sure!” The doctor was confident of his rendering and looked concerned. My wife joined in with the doctor and pronounced, “John, can’t you see that this church is killing you?”

Ten minutes into the examination I was being prescribed my first antidepressant famously named Prozac. Twelve minutes into this mind bending revelation I was ordered to take some time off. Fourteen minutes into this, I was still an unbeliever, but regardless of my personal disbelief, the doctor referred me to a therapist. After fifteen minutes I walked out of the doctor’s office numb, confused at what had just taken place. In one hand I carried a piece of paper to give to the pharmacist. In the other hand I held a card with the name of my first therapist. Fifteen minutes ago I had this picture of dying from a brain tumor with grace and dignity, now, I had to continue to live in my messy life battling some unknown force named depression.

Mike, from the Unhappy Happiness blog, talks about a recent depressive episode and how structure can help him retain (and regain) stability:

Up until that point I thought I had everything under control–that is, I had developed a set of routines that I thought were impenetrable. However, I went from only going to school online and being subject to few real social situations to having a full-time job and an internship. It was too much. They broke down my structures so much I couldn’t recover. And so I gave up.

I let myself be taken by chaos. I let myself fall further and further down. Granted, I started planning for suicide, which ironically in itself brought structure. But for the most part, I let all structure go.

I am learning that there is a balance between structure and chaos; it’s not an either/or situation. There will always be hope and despair in my life, sometimes at the same time–and I’m learning that that’s okay.

Lis, writing at Seesaws and Roundabouts, has found that recovery is a double-edged sword (something I remember writing about a long time ago too):

I’ve been ill for more than ten years, this is part of me now. It’s who I am. My illness, by it’s nature, gives me moments of sheer bliss and moments of total sorrow. It’s easy to forget the despair when I feel amazing, it’s easy to dismiss it when driven with manic energy. I can live life at times so full of hope and expectation. It feels like a gift. That’s why there are times when I am well and yet I’ll be craving an episode, a relapse into mania. I want the thrill, the joy, the hope it gives for something better than just mere life.

…[W]hy would I say recovery causes me despair? Well, as I said, this is now part of me. It’s shaped me. It’s who I am, or at least so strongly tangled with who I am I don’t know how to separate the two. What if I lose part of myself?

Despair is then discovering I’m not naturally confident or articulate. I’m quiet and shy. Despair is losing so called friends as you’re not the person you had appeared to be. Monotony. Routine. Feeling tired. Trying to pick up all the broken pieces of your life and rebuild. That one is the hardest. Starting life from the beginning, picking up on life before sickness, being so far behind.

Steve has a harrowing post on his journal, Is There a Future?, about the day he fled in despair from a psychiatric ward:

Police baton hits windscreen hard. Hands up. Feet off pedals. People screaming at me. Engine off. Keys in passenger footwell. Reaching for door. Bang of baton on side window, hands around head. Baton through window. Baton hits my head hard. Other window goes in. Glass flying. Door open. Not resisting. Punched twice in face. Being pulled hard by arm. Seatbelt gets done. On floor. On glass. Cuffed. Police screaming at me. Still not resisting. Pulled onto feet. See damage done to car. Absolute pit of despair opens like a trapdoor.

I don’t know how hard that is to read but even after all this time it’s so very very painful to think about. I can’t help but cry as I remember it.

But where’s the hope?

A shred of hope was given that day when a different doctor changed my meds off SSRIs to something totally different. Which got me out of hospital. Which got me back from the abyss.

I despair that I didn’t die every time I remember that time. I just… it… I was ripped apart over several months from that day on.

I hope that others won’t have to go through any of what I went through. From the bad care to the lies of the police. The hell of bad meds choices. Everything.

I despair because I know that’s exactly what will happen.

La-reve, over at My Head Noise, poignantly discusses the relevance of today’s theme in her life:

So I guess all I can do is define what it means. Despair for me is the crash that follows the euphoria. It could be Digging lithium and paracetamol out of the ash in your car’s ash tray where you had to stash them momentarily as someone walked by and still chewing them longingly along with the soot.. Despair is standing with a ready tied noose looking into icy waters, at 3am. Despair is sitting in a crowded AnE department with a security guard within arms reach because you pose that high a risk. despair is being locked away in a cold 6 foot square box for 11 hours while people outside organise one of the 12 mental health act assesments you have had in just a couple of years. But despair really is realising you are treading that final line that your death is inevitable, having your consultant a specialist in your mood disorder, agree with you, hearing him say ‘when you die’ not ‘if you die’. Despair is knowing there is no cure nor may there ever be.

And yet here I am and things did get better. I wont say that things don’t get bad, I recently had another 8 related slip, but I don’t recall any moments of True despair in the last couple of months. I may not always feel so good, but I know there is another path, that with careful monitoring, some meds etc, I can live my life, I can have a family, see my boy grow and hopefully one day soonish I will be back in full time work. Now that is hope- a shy and cautious one but hope none the less and yes it is scary but nothing ventured nothing gained, and there is another world, beyond mental illness, blogging, appointments etc.. and I have lingered too long on its sidelines I want to get back in the game, and live my life as me, not a diagnosis thats all I want from hope, thats enough.

One of a number of people in the Madosphere who is both a patient and professional, Lothlorien addresses this week’s big mental health news story: Marsha Linehan, the creator of (my favourite! ;)) therapy DBT, suffered from borderline personality disorder herself:

I have spoken to my own therapist about my becoming a therapist and the fact that I would be a therapist who has had DID. I worry about people finding out. What would they think? Would they think I was less competent? My therapist views me as MORE competent, and she says I have so much to offer, not only to clients but to clinicians as well.

The article talks about how Marsha Linehan felt incredibly suicidal and engaged in various forms of self-injury for which she still carries the scars.

My favorite part of the article, which I can identify the most with and is exactly why I am persuing my MSW in Clinical Social Work is below:

….referring to her suffering, suicidality, and cycling hospitalizations which yeilded not much help for her, she says, “I was in hell, and I made a vow: when I get out, I’m going to come back and get others out of here.” (Marsha Linehan)

And she did exactly that. 🙂

What an amazing story.

Regular readers will of course know that I am not Marsha Linehan’s biggest fan, because of my lack of tolerance for DBT. However, the article in question did inspire in me a newfound respect for Linehan; just because I don’t like DBT doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for others, and in any case – Linehan used her own experiences to help others struggling as she did. So I’m with Lothlorien on this 🙂

Lothlorian also submitted a revealing and fascinating series for this Carnival entitled Welcome to the World of Inpatient Care. It begins here.

Writing at trichquestions, the author shows us how important writing poetry is to her, and how she is hopeful that, through therapy, some of her muse will return:

The last time I went to see my therapist, I was talking about how I’ve stopped writing poetry, and how much I miss it. I’ve been climbing walls with how much I miss it, actually. It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas or gotten bored. It’s just nothing’s coming out with the same energy it used to. Most days I feel like I’ve got nothing to say (or nothing worth saying, anyway), and when I write anything down it sounds contrived and dull. I’m reading absolutely loads of it still, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of it completely. But something vital is missing at the moment and I have no idea what. It’s been over a year since I finished a poem, and about that long since I wanted to.

She [the therapist] mentioned last time I saw her that I may have been relating to myself back when I wrote the last poems in a way that I won’t be able to do now. I’ve moved on since then, in many respects things have gotten better, although more confusing in equal measure. I’m not the same person, so trying to get back something that I believe has been lost might not be the best way to go about this. It’s true that I have little idea how to relate to myself at the moment. A lot of things have happened very fast recently and I’m still struggling a lot. So trying to recreate a time that is essentially past is not going to bring back my work. The trouble is… I don’t know what will.

I’m going to keep talking about my writing in therapy, and I’m going to keep continuing to feel hopeful that it’ll come back. There’s just large amounts of frustration and despair in the meantime while I work on this. One thing I had an idea of more recently was that I do need to allow myself some space and time to write every day, even if it’s just for half an hour. I gave up on doing that when I thought nothing was coming of it, but I’m starting to see how important it is to allow yourself that space.

CBTish reports to the Carnival via his blog that he has encountered some cockroaches – and they’re not all very NICE:

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) is consulting on a draft guideline on Improving the experience of care for people using adult NHS mental health services. Much of the guideline is based on other guidelines for specific conditions. The consultation is not public even though the documents are — only registered stakeholders can submit comments.

There is little or no mention of discharge from the system altogether. Even the small section on discharge from community care (10.3) emphasizes continuing support and the availability of top-up appointments and re-referral.

It’s as if the entire mental health system has become an asylum in the community, a grim institution that no one ever really leaves, with the hospital ward taking on the role of padded cell for those patients who become too troublesome. This ties in with the widespread belief, a false belief, that mental illness indicates a fundamental weakness in you as a person from which you will never recover, and that the best you can ever hope for is life-long struggle in the care of others.

Lest anyone despair at the bureaucratic numbskullery of the NHS, it should be said that this NICE consultation is hopefully one of the last to get away with a tick-box approach that sidesteps the question of whether people are actually getting better.

Although it may take years to arrive, hopeful new thinking is on the way — the thinking that the outcomes people experience are more important than the NHS’s internal procedures. NICE might have to change or be abolished to make way for the new thinking, but whatever it takes there is at last hope.

a_wry writes on her blog about the “glasses” she needed for an “astigmatism” she didn’t even believe she had:

I’ve been having “headaches” for a long, long time, and haven’t been able to “see” things nearly as well as most people I know.

My family doesn’t believe in “astigmatism”, and so I didn’t either, really, for many years. (I mean, sure, I bought that it happened to other folks, but my own life hadn’t been hard enough to give me cataracts. Yet. Right?) All of us squint constantly, for what it’s worth.

In the meantime, I tried doing eye-exercises religiously. I did all sorts of complicated things with the contrast and text-size settings on my computer at work. I switched to a diet high in vitamin A, and gave up reading in situations with less than ideal lighting. I wore polarized sunglasses, hypoallergenic mascara, and I did my damnedest to get enough sleep.

But the headaches and the encroaching blindness just got worse.

And then someone jammed a toothpick through one of my eyes, and I finally felt justified in going to the doctor.

I am equal parts hopeful that these glasses that so many people sing the praises of will help me, too, and fearful that the doctor will look at my eyes and say, “Your problem is that you just don’t do enough eye exercises.”

Yeah, I know that feeling 😦 I really loved this analogy, though.

BtF from Behind the Facade looks at the issue of raising suicide prevention awareness using the media:

Breaking down the barriers and creating change is hard. But it can be done, and it has been done in the past. As said by John Brogden, “Forty years ago I’m sure that people would have been aghast if you suggested that we should suggest to women to get their breasts tested. How could you use that word in public? Now cricketers play cricket in pink once a year or whatever it is to promote that you know – how could you talk to men about testicular cancer or prostate cancer – oh my god – we are big enough and smart enough to deal with this now rather than find excuses and I don’t want us to find excuses to telling people who feel this way – there is a way to deal with it. That’s the message.”

The closing message I’d like to quote was also made by John Brogden. “One thing I want to make sure that people watching this show understand and I don’t think there is a person here who would disagree with one message from tonight… it’s that you’re better off talking about suicide than not.. I’ve met parents who say I wouldn’t know how to talk to my kid…. You’re better to talk about it than not talk about it as that will open them up… you’re not going to put the idea in their head and that’s a great worry that too many people have and I’d like to think that people will turn off the TV after this and think about talking to friends and family and this very important issue.” I couldn’t agree more. The time is now to talk about suicide.

I couldn’t agree more either. Perfectly put.

Over at the blog My Crazy Bipolar Life, the author is also writing about suicide, but has an interesting take on the subject (and, indeed, the Carnival’s theme): does the perfect suicide note exist, she asks?

I have tried visualizing how I would feel if it was I who was reading a suicide note of someone I loved and it was through this that I realized that no matter what they wrote it wouldn’t make me feel any better about their death. I think it would be impossible to leave a nice suicide note because no matter how you choose to write it, the recipient is going to be just heart broken. If it were me sitting reading a suicide note from a family member my head would be spinning at a hundred miles an hour. I would have so many questions – why couldn’t they talk to me? did they try and get any help? if they did why did no one help them? why couldn’t they see that this mood would pass and wasn’t permanent? why did I not know something was wrong when I last saw them?

Then that brings the reader to the next point. When did I last see the person? They seemed OK. I’m sure they seemed OK. They weren’t overly happy but joined in with conversation here and there. They stayed a decent amount of time and didn’t seem uncomfortable. Why the fuck have they done this to their self? Confusion. Anger. Heart broken again. Maybe they would even blame themselves. How could I let my Mum or Dad ever think they didn’t do enough or could have done more?

The answer is I can’t. I can’t write the perfect suicide note. I can’t even write a nice one no matter how many times I tell them I love them in it. And ‘I’m sorry’ just seems so trivial, it almost seems rude that I didn’t give an explanation.

…[I]f I can’t write the perfect suicide note, then what hope is there for me having the perfect suicide?

Hopefully (from my point of view) none! Your life is worth an awful lot, you know 🙂

Finally, some odd woman called Pandora, writing at Confessions of a Serial Insomniac, has been driving on the wrong side of the road:

Remember how I was in February? I was such a mess, so enthralled with the idea of ending my life, that NewVCB considered putting me in the day bin…My point is, I was in no fit state to do anything. Lifting my head off the pillow was a genuine and concerted effort; getting downstairs was a fucking good achievement.

I wouldn’t even have been able to go on holiday in the first place, never mind committing to driving in a strange land, in a fashion diametrically opposed to that to which I am used.

And if I had got to that point, I’d have had a complete, full-blown panic attack at the first sign of trouble with the car. Having the various mishaps we did have would have probably sent me jumping into the nearby quarry. Having been told that I’d marked the vehicle and was liable to pay for it would have seen me collapse in the street, begging the bloke to forgive me for my (non-existent) carelessness.

I wouldn’t have dared speak anything other than the occasional “hola” or “gracías” in Spanish, and even that would have been delivered with a head-bowed meekness.

Instead, I behaved methodically, calmly and generally confidently throughout.

So I’ll continue to hope – hope for the best, be prepared for the worst, and take what comes.

And that’s all folks!

(I don’t think I’ve forgotten anyone, but I ended up with far more submissions than I expected, so if I have omitted your entry, leave a comment here and I’ll add it straight-away. Please accept my apologies if this is the case!).

The next Blog Carnival of Mental Health will be hosted by Behind the Facade, and the theme will be stigma and discrimination. If you are interested in hosting a Carnival on your own blog, please contact Astrid van Woerkom, who is the facilitator of the project. I believe that she has monthly slots available from August onwards.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs here! Toodle-oo 🙂

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The Wrong Side of the Road

I think this entry will function adequately for my contribution to this month’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health, which is on the theme of hope and despair.

As you probably know, I was on holiday recently. For those that care, yes – we did have a lovely time, thank you. We relaxed, ate and drank – but on several days we…you know, did stuff. We were in Fuerteventura, so one day we took the ferry across to Lanzarote (where we’ve been before, although we visited a different town from where we’d previously stayed). Another day, we took a different ferry and went to La Isla de Los Lobos, which is a small nature reserve island located just north of Fuertaventura. It was very hot, and Los Lobos is very exposed to the sun, but we still walked around the entire place, rewarding ourselves with a dip in the idyllic little lagoon at the end of the hike.

On a third day, we hired out a car. Oh yes. WE HIRED A CAR.

What do you mean, such a benign few sentences don’t deserve their own paragraph, their own capitalisation? Yeah, I know everyone hires cars on holiday – but everyone is not me. Hear me out here, folks.

A does not drive, owing to being partially sighted (and, indeed, completely blind in one eye). This hardly bothers me at all (the fact that he can’t drive, that is – obviously, I deeply regret the reasons for that) as I actively enjoy driving – in my darkest days, it was one of the few things that kept me from falling off a precipice into a deep abyss of uttely chaotic, poorly prognosticated madness. I suppose it’s the freedom of it, the thrill of speed, the sensation of motion that’s accompanied by appropriate music – it all adds up to being one pretty cathartic way to spend one’s time.

Today, driving still exhilarates me. Even in these days of pseudo-recovery, anhedonia may still reign supreme over me at times – driving, however, is something in which I still take genuine pleasure. Whilst out on the free and open road, I find the practice completely invigorating.

Anyway. I had never driven on the wrong side of the road before (and yes, before most of the rest of the world says it, it is actually the wrong side of the road despite it being far more common to drive on the right – or, more accurately perhaps, left-hand drive cars should be considered dangerous aberrations. Consider it from a pluralistic or utilitarian point of view. Go on. Think about it.). It may not seem to be a big deal, but when you’re a mentalist freak who has driven the same car without exception for the last three years, it becomes a greater issue.

So, I present to you The Car Story.

We picked the car up in the morning and, after a few minutes of it stuttering at me and generally refusing to be particularly co-operative, I managed to get the thing to run smoothly away from the hireship. A good start? No, as it turns out; here, just seconds from where the car had sat waiting for us, we hit our first snag. An alarm started bleating on and on, and Christ, was it irritating – all the more so because neither of us had the first clue as to what it was trying to tell us. I did some brief checks – we both had our seatbelts on, it wasn’t the air conditioning, blah blah blah. More out of annoyance than sense, we decided to pull over at an appropriate place and investigate more extensively.

I parked down a quiet street and looked for clues as to the source of the alarm. Obviously when the car was switched off, the alarm ceased its incessant call too, but I was gratified when I turned the ignition back on to see (hear) that the alarm had stopped. Had it been an anomaly, perhaps? I decided to drive a bit further on to see if it revisited us, and that if it did, to look out for signs as to what had triggered its screeching.

Before we got the opportunity to put this plan into action, however, we hit our second problem. I was parked such that I needed to reverse out of the space – but I could not find, for all the life of me, how to engage the fucking reverse gear. I looked at the stick in detail, and was satisfied that I was following the paths clearly marked out on it. I looked in the glove box for a manual, but there was none. Eventually, A (as he, unlike me, had more than -£800 in his bank account) turned on roaming 3G on his iPhone to see if Detective Inspector Google was willing to help us solve this frustrating case.

Initially, DI Google’s investigative skills proved to be poor. I got out of the car and walked about a bit, smoking as I went (I can try to pretend that it helps me to think, see). The incident was certainly frustrating as hiring out this car (a VW Beetle Cabriolet) wasn’t particularly cheap, and it felt we were wasting the time for which we had paid. Yet, despite this, I couldn’t help smile at the funny side of it too. Something so bloody daft could only happen to Yours Truly.

Just as A was about to advise that we embarrassingly ring the car hire company to beg for help, DI Google brought us an exhibit. Not a verdict (well, a DI is not a jury, so it would have been a bit odd if (s)he had I suppose), but a piece of guidance. Some website or other referred to pulling your gear-stick up.

“This one already seems to be ‘up’,” I observed.

“Have you tried pushing it down?” A queried.

I hadn’t, so I did. And it worked.

(Incidentally, my mother tells me that most modern cars are built like this. WHY? It’s heart-stoppingly stupid. There are enough slots for all six or seven gears in a standard gearbox, surely?).

So, smug and satisfied, off we headed.

I drove well, overall. In the end the main problem was not steering with my left hand as I had predicted (that’s a clue to the bemused Americans and Europeans who can’t understand why I’m definitively asserting that left-hand drive cars suck, by the way), nor even changing gears with my right, but my confusion over pedals. That’s especially strange because, relative to my feet, the pedals were roughly in the same position as they are in my own car, unlike everything fucking else. In any case, the problems were minor, and sailing through this beautiful, arid, mountainous terrain in an open-top car with the sun shining and the wind flowing through our hair gave that exhilaration I find from driving an even harder edge. It was great.

I noticed the alarm a couple of times on the trip. I never did decipher exactly what it was moaning about, but it was something to do with engaging the hand-brake when the car came to a stop. Once I’d figured out this part-of-the-story, I was able to successfully play an ad hoc game of Shut the Fuck Up, Alarm with the car.

We hit snag three when we arrived in a sleepy little town on the west coast of the island. We wanted to leave the car for lunch (and later the beach), but – despite what drivers of roofless cars seem to do as standard – we wanted to put the hood up, to make the vehicle as secure as possible. The bloke in the hire place had shown me how to do this – but would it co-operate? Would it fuck! A and I both fought with it for ages, before once again resorting to our expensive old friend, roaming 3G, and the YouTube video that DI Google uncovered for us. In the end, we’d been doing almost exactly the right thing – we’d just been a little less heavy-handed than we needed to be, a caution borne out of, I think, quite reasonable worry that we’d break the bastard.

After that, we had a lovely day walking around the town, mucking about on its beach with its amazing waves, and driving through the Fuerteventuran dunes in the early evening. Later, we left the car outside our apartments and walked into town as normal.

The next day, I returned the car to to hire place. To cut a long story short, there was apparently a small mark on the back of it that hadn’t been there when I took it away the previous day, and this could have seen me lose my E100 deposit very easily. I calmly told the man involved that I had definitely not breached the terms of the contract and that ergo, I had no idea how the mark had got there. He thought about it for a moment, then handed me back my deposit and told me not to worry about it.

So. Thus endeth The Car Story.

Also whilst on holiday, I actually bothered to use my knowledge of Spanish in order to communicate with locals. I was pleasantly surprised when the majority of them respected this enough to actually respond in Spanish, at least until I got confused by something (this is an odd situation, I have to say – I have been known to, and probably still could, talk at some length about world politics or the intricacies of the works of Gabriel García Márquez in Spanish, but if you want to hold a boring, average conversation with me, generally you’ll be met with a blank stare of oh fuck, I wish I’d listened in third year and not just sixth form). I had been quite pleased with myself that I was able to speak vaguely meaningful Spanish at all to people, but it was a particular boost to have them consider me capable of understanding their responses.

I swam in the sea and did not imagine phantom sting-rays underneath me waiting to pierce me through the heart, as if I were an oversized, female Steve Irwin. I drank a bit but became neither maudlin nor manic. I came back here to my dull life and didn’t want to slit my wrists.

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s not just a boring story about driving a car, nor about speaking a language I’m actually meant to fucking speak. It all serves as an allegory for the state of my mental health.

Remember how I was in February? I was such a mess, so enthralled with the idea of ending my life, that NewVCB considered putting me in the day bin (though of course she didn’t, knowing that it would only make things worse. I don’t really have a lot of interest in sewing or whatever one does in day bins, and the interaction with other people was only likely to have served to encourage me to purchase my helium in disgust). My point is, I was in no fit state to do anything. Lifting my head off the pillow was a genuine and concerted effort; getting downstairs was a fucking good achievement.

I wouldn’t even have been able to go on holiday in the first place, never mind committing to driving in a strange land, in a fashion diametrically opposed to that to which I am used.

And if I had got to that point, I’d have had a complete, full-blown panic attack at the first sign of trouble with the car. Having the various mishaps we did have would have probably sent me jumping into the nearby quarry. Having been told that I’d marked the vehicle and was liable to pay for it would have seen me collapse in the street, begging the bloke to forgive me for my (non-existent) carelessness.

I wouldn’t have dared speak anything other than the occasional “hola” or “gracías” in Spanish, and even that would have been delivered with a head-bowed meekness.

Instead, I behaved methodically, calmly and generally confidently throughout.

I am home now, and have had the opportunity to consider this and other issues. Things with Paul ended on Monday (I won’t go into much detail on this as I will write a proper post pertaining to the final appointment and my resulting future plans in the coming weeks) and I didn’t end up going completely batshit. I had a pile of crap thrown in my face on Sunday past, which was compounded that evening by the news of the death of a good friend’s father – and rather than throw a mental fit, I merely swept the metaphorical dust off myself and got on with things. I’ve really started reading properly again, to the point where A recently described me as a “vociferous reader”. I’m currently reading – and have managed to properly follow the really excellent TV series – of the very intricate A Game of Thrones. Furthermore, I’m actually doing writing that does not pertain to this blog, even on occasion to this identity, and I am doing bits and pieces of (admittedly at-home-in-front-of-the-computer) voluntary work.

I know that I’m not ready to return to a ‘proper’ job, that yardstick by which I so strongly measure myself, but I am progressing towards it. I am hoping – cross your fingers, please – that by the start of 2012, I may actually have started looking into proper ‘in-office’ voluntary work, and perhaps I can even upgrade myself back to part-time paid employment by the end of that year. These aren’t hard and fast timeframes, fear not; they are hopes, but if I don’t meet them, I’ll not bee too hard on myself.

It could all go tits up. All of this could turn into nothing – or, rather, it could turn into an unmitigated disaster in the form of a serious relapse. But I have hope. Only four months ago, all I could see was death and despair. And now I have hope! It’s curious – an unknown quantity to me, almost – but it’s here, and I welcome it.

So I’ll continue to hope – hope for the best, be prepared for the worst, and take what comes.

I’ve only received one entry and one enquiry (reply on the way after this) about the aforementioned Blog Carnival of Mental Health. I’m sure more of you than that want to contribute? It’s a giant themed TWIM, folks – it’s awesome! Leave your links on the page linked on this paragraph (or here if you must, lazy-bones), or email me if you’d prefer. Thank you and enjoy! ❤ xxx

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