2012 Continues its Shittery, But Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Good evening (or morning, if you prefer). It must have been about three weeks since I last posted, which is pretty much a record absence for me in the almost-three years that I’ve been writing this blog. There are some underlying reasons, I suppose, but primarily my disappearance can be attributed to the usual culprit: that of crippling, fuck you anhedonia. I haven’t been as badly afflicted by the phenomenon since I was a teenager. I mean, depression always carries this demon in its clutches, that much is a given, but it exists in degrees. The depression that has blighted my life so far this year was, initially, relatively free from anhedonia and its cousin, avolition – I blogged quite prolifically around the time of Maisie’s death, after all. I gravitated here when that happened; as it had been, Confessions became my outlet, my place to vent, my catharsis and analysis. In the last few weeks, I haven’t felt that at all.

This apathy and utter dearth of motivation have been compounded by an exhaustion of a magnitude I cannot describe. I’ve been sleeping poorly, and waking early when I do manage to find slumber for a few hours – but it’s more than just that sort of tiredness, for I’ve lived with that for many years. Every step I’ve taken recently has taken the effort that I’d imagine normals would put into a bloody marathon. My head constantly droops somewhere down in my chest – giving the unfortunate impression to the cameras and any other onlookers that I’m orally pleasuring myself – because I have not an ounce of strength to hold it up. My mind is either blank, or thinking repetitive, monotonous, lifeless thoughts. I have, on many days, literally had to tell myself what to do: “move your left foot now, Pan. Good, now move your left. No, no, fuck, sorry! Move your right. Yes, right. Good. Left now. Well done.” And my body aches with this…something. Aches aches aches. And sometimes my mind joins it: it can’t even summon the energy to feel anything with my usual levels of desperation. It currently doesn’t feel raw pain, just like my body doesn’t. It just aches.

[Coincidentally – or not? – the last time I felt tiredness on this scale was back when The Everythinger was here in August. More thrilling musings on that later…]

Perhaps ironically, therefore, I think the depression to which I alluded has abated a little. I’m confident that were I to take any of the usual diagnostic tests that I’d still be deemed ‘severely’ depressed, but, again, it’s about degrees. I do feel a bit better than I did when I last wrote. This could be the normal cyclical run of my supposed manic depression, or it could be down to Lamictal. I mentioned last time that Christine was going to ask NewVCB to increase my dosage of the aforesaid drug; however, NewVCB adamantly refused. Her rationale was something that I didn’t entirely comprehend – something along the lines of not raising the dose when I was planning to cut down on Seroquel, which I think translates as “don’t let her get too used to the stuff just yet, because she’ll need a fuckload more when we start titrating the Seroquel down.”

Why, then, has the drug possibly made a difference? The reason is that effectively the dose has increased. Confused? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but since I’ve been taking 100mg of Lamictal, that has (theoretically) meant ingestion of one tablet in the morning, and one in the evening. In effect, this has meant one in the evening only – ie. 50mg daily – due to the toxicity that is the infamous Seroquel hangover. Even when I had dezombified five hours later, I simply forgot to take the damn thing. Of late, however, I’ve taken to leaving a strip of the stuff on the bedside table, in order that it is the first thing I see each afternoon morning. With the sun rising earlier, I’m waking (assuming I’ve slept, which is not always the case) earlier anyway, so the morning tablet is taken at a more appropriate time, meaning that the stuff floating around my body is more regulated and less quickly half-lifed away.

So, that’s medication. What else? Ah yes. As reported in the last post, I’d received the brown envelope that all ill or disabled people in the UK fear most: that of a social security assessment form (an ESA50, in this case). I also noted that Christine has said she’d fill it in for me. When I saw her last week, she had indeed done so, the poor, lovely woman. Bless her.

Can you spot the impending ‘but’? To my regret, there is one. To be honest, she’d really written very little about my hallucinations and delusions, referring to ‘hearing voices’ or ‘feeling paranoid’ – and that was qualified by the hideous words of ‘sometimes’ or ‘on occasion’. I hadn’t the nerve to say this to her, but I felt that this wasn’t really an accurate presentation of the issues, so when an brought it home, I modified some of the content, and added stuff in. For example, it asks something like, “are other people frightened by your behaviour?”, and she had ticked ‘no’. I don’t agree with that; I know from experience that people find experiences of those like ‘They‘ deeply disturbing and, yes, frighhtening. Even some cheery ramblings of, “oh, look, that sign’s trying to tell me I’m beautiful!” sees neighbouring eyes widen in horror and concern. And something as ostensibly simple as a panic attack can have people shifting their eyes, crossing the street and then running like the hammers from hell.

By the time I’d modified that which I felt needed alteration, of course the form looked like I was trying to make my condition sound worse simply for the purpose of getting more money, rather than attempting to present reality. I therefore asked my mother to ring the Social Security Agency (SSA) and ask for a new form. “Whilst at it,” I instructed, “ask them why I’m actually being assessed.”

She responded a few hours later advising me that they refused to tell her anything and that I’d have to ring them myself. Cue fucking panic stations galore. Asking me to use the phone, as ever, was like asking me asking me to translate War and sodding Peace or Beowulf into Sanskrit. But needs must, so after perusing the SSA’s website in painstakingly close detail in a futile attempt to obtain an email address for a relevant member of staff, I took a deep breath and called them.

Naturally, this was not a simple process. At first the robotic female who ‘answered’ my call advised me, after talking frustratingly slowly through six years of patronising explanatory shit and in doing so costing me a lot of money, that my call could “not be taken at the minute. We are sorry.” (Read: “we’re on our fag break. Fuck off”). When I called back immediately, after listening to the same initial bollocks, Robot intimated to me that my call was in a queue. How surprising. “Please continue to hold and someone will be with you as soon as possible. Or, if you prefer to call back later, our opening hours are [x, y and z].”

I did not prefer to call back later, so held. Robot repeated the soft and still enragingly slow monologue about 100 times. Why the fuck do they use that voice? Are its lulled t
ones supposed to hypnotise you into compliance? If so, they’ve supremely failed. The only compliance they’ve evoked in me is a willingness to comply with the invoice I’m expecting from the people I sent round to break Robot’s non-existent legs (and yes, GCHQ, that is/was a joke and is not to be taken literally, seriously or as anything other than just a joke. OK?).

The real cunt, though, was fucking Vivaldi. Fuck Vivaldi. To think once I appreciated what I then found to be the majestic chords and melodies for which he was responsible. I swear to fucking God that I nearly rang Matt Smith’s agent to inquire about TARDIS rental. A trip back to 1677 to prevent the birth of the composer seems to be the only solution to this widespread problem; it’s always Vivaldi that is played when you ring any sort of call centre, and so it proved in this case. In between Robot came the first 30 seconds of (I think) Summer. Over and over and over. It would put a sane human being into an asylum.

In the end, the call itself was very straightforward. The girl was friendly, if clueless – when asked why I was being reassessed, she said, “um…well, I think they do this every year, I’m not sure though.”

“Even for people in the support group?” I checked (interruptive spluttering and stammering not included. You can obtain these with my all-singing, all-dancing in-blog purchase function, denoted by a button displaying the word ‘Donate’, at the bottom of this post).

“The support group?” The poor cow sounded genuinely mystified. “Uh…uh, yeah, I think so.”

It was a futile effort, so I told her I’d lost the ESA50 and asked if she’d send another. She cheerfully told me that this was not a problem, that she’d get someone to do it forthwith, and – apart from checking if Mum could ring on my behalf in future (yes; I just need to give details on the form) – that was really that. A simple, inoffensive, unconfrontational discussion that still left me hyperventilating. I wish I could overcome this fucking terror. My only other serious phobia is the old formulaic one of spiders and, as a general rule, that doesn’t interrupt my daily living. Sadly, if I ever want to work again – and I do, I do so much, when I’m well enough – my farcical and excessive anxiety about phones will significantly interfere with my everyday functioning,

Why should it? Why can’t people move into the 21st century and use fucking Twitter or email for their communication needs? Fuck phones.

I can’t believe I just wrote eight paragraphs about a phone call. I become increasingly ridiculous by the day, dearest readers. Moving on, I have now been back under the watchful eyes and perked-up ears of everyone’s favourite psychotherapist, the inimitable Paul, for three sessions. I will actually discuss these in more detail, though to my abject alarm, I’ve lost the notes I kept on sessions two and three. Now, the reason for my apprehension is to do with the fact that they could easily have fallen into the wrong hands, if I am in correct in my assumption that they fell out of my bag or something. However, I will admit to also being irritated for an altogether less ethical reason: I will not be able to record these two appointments here in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed. Fuck’s sake. This blog has taken over my life. Incidentally, that’s something that actually came up with Paul – in session two? – but I’ll leave you veritably on the edge of your seat in anticipation of that. I’m sure you’re on the brink of self-immolation because you simply can’t stand the wait any other way. Burning ‘grounds’ you, to use modern therapeutic parlance.

What else? I suppose before getting to The Big Thing that I should apologise to many people on Twitter. I dip in and out of it erratically; even if I’m sending tweets, I am not necessarily reading others’ messages, or their @s or DMs to me. I often tweet by text message, and now have a quirky little iPhone app that allows me to tweet under this identity whilst being in another account. So it’s not that I’m ignoring you; I just don’t always see you. Every so often, I log in and see a few messages to me, and sometimes reply, but I’m pathetically incapable of catching up on everything. I don’t know whether this is social anxiety, increasing apathy, an identity crisis or just my being a total knob. Whatever the case, I’m sorry.

Right, then. I live in Northern Ireland, as most of you know. People on this island like to drink alcohol – a lot. Once a year, something comes up that seems to grant them complete impunity to engage in this pursuit: St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it wil not shock you to hear that I loathe this occasion with a fucking passion; I have a pretty low tolerance for the obnoxious behaviours that many irregular drinkers display when inebriated out of their skulls, and I can’t cope the busy-ness around the place. This year, the event fell on Saturday past. A and I went out for dinner but had to come straight home, which is not at all common for us on that evening of the week. We’re usually in our local.

Anyway, the silver lining around the cloud of St Patrick (who gives a fuck about him anyway? He sounds like a bellend to me) is that A gets the day off (or gets it off in lieu when, as in this case, it’s at a weekend). Monday was therefore free, so we went out on Sunday to make up for our inability to do so the previous evening.

Exactly 51 minutes after we’d left the house, A’s phone started ringing. When he withdrew it from his pocket, we were both perplexed to observe that the caller was my mother. Thinking she was trying to get hold of me, but that my phone had lost its signal or something, I answered it (yes, yes, phone phobia notwithstanding).

The alarm was going off. If they can’t get hold of A or me, they ring my mother first, as she’s closest to our house, and then A’s mother second. A worked out the purpose of my mother’s call, and got ready to leave. I hung up and told him I’d stay in the pub; I would only hold him back by accompanying him (he’s a much faster walker than I am), and anyway, I reckoned it was a false alarm. That used to happen all the fucking time, to the point where I’ve wondered of late how the company responsible for running the thing had managed to improve their product so vastly. So A went back himself, advising that he’d call if anything untoward had happened. Otherwise, I supposed, he’d just return.

A few minutes passed, during which I caught up on some blogs on my Google Reader. In the middle of this, though, I was interrupted by a phone call incoming from my brother-in-law. Truthfully, at my core, I knew why he was ringing – but I let myself pretend that he was calling about joining us in the bar, especially given that he and A had exchanged a few messages about the outing earlier in the day. I duly ignored him.

When my mother-in-law’s name appeared on the screen of my phone, although I again tried to ignore the ramifications of this telephonic confluence of events, I really knew the game was up. This time I answered. She told me that they’d also called her and that my brother-in-law, who was at her house as it transpired, had called the police. In return, I advised her that A had gone back to the house to check that things were in order.

I’d only just hung up when A phoned. It wouldn’t be the last discussion via this medium that day…God, I wish
I believed in exposure therapy. I got a lot of potential practice with it on Sunday.

I knew as soon as I answered that he was horribly distressed. It doesn’t take a skilled conversationalist to decipher the first intake of breath before a single word is spoken; cheer, shock, thrills, anger – they and many more moods besides can be deconstructed in that split second. I’ve often heard parents say that when their kid reaches a few weeks or months old that they can tell by the ‘type’ of cry it emits that it wants x or y. Maybe this is a similar type of thing.

A’s gasp was one of shock and panic. Jesus Christ, I thought within the nanosecond left to me. Not again. We were burgled last only back in June, for fuck’s sake!

“They’ve taken the TV [42 fucking inches! In a heavily-populated terraced street!], the X-Box, the PS3, the iPad…” he was gasping. “They’ve smashed the door between the kitchen and the living room in…”

“I’m coming now,” I said. I hung up and called a taxi.

I could go into my usual level of detail about this, but it’s late and I’m tired. So…

  • The cops had been when I got home, but had apparently spotted some potential culprits, so legged it after them before talking to us and examining the house.
  • Without touching anything, I managed to piece together what had happened. The burglars – or, rather, a burglar – had crawled through the tiny window we keep open for the cats; I know this because it was completely fucked. Then he (and I use the male pronoun for a reason, which I’ll detail) saw the keys hanging up, opened the back door, and let his companion in.
  • They tried, I assume, to simply open the living room door – but, as we have done since the last burglary, we had locked it before leaving the house. They smashed the poor thing in with the Dyson, which was sitting in a corner of the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, they broke that too.
  • Entering the living room would have set the alarm off, and given all that they took and the bloody mess that they’d made, it was obvious that they knew the layout of the place. They couldn’t have got away with all that they did with the alarm (which itself calls the police) curbing their time had it been any other way.
  • They shoved the smaller items, which now seemed to include my old laptop, in bags, exited through the now-open back door, and onward through the gate at the back to the entry (which they’d also used the keys to unlock).
  • They hadn’t gone upstairs. Thank fuck I’d taken my current laptop up to the office; it was safe there. Curiously, they also hadn’t taken my Kindle. It was behind the door they’d smashed in, so perhaps they didn’t see it, or perhaps they didn’t identify it as a piece of expensive electronics because it was in its case, mimicking (to a point) a normal book.
  • Before we’d left, I’d deliberately moved the Kindle and A’s iPad out of view of the window. I neurotically checked the back door was locked about seven times, as I almost always do since the last break-in. Fat lot of good my caution did us.
  • The peelers returned. We were advised that they had taken two blokes into custody (hence my use of the male pronoun in reference to these criminals), and as I detailed my theory of their entrance to the female officer, her male colleague went to look around the back entry for further clues.
  • ….
  • …..
  • I am writing this post on A’s stolen iPad.
  • …..
  • ….
  • The policeman found everything out the back!
  • It seems that when the wankers were spotted, they unceremoniously dumped everything – or perhaps not quite everything? – and ran like fuck. But they were too late ūüôā
  • The police were here for quite a while. In short, they took statements, got the forensic people in and liaised back and forth with their station colleagues. The girl from forensics was extremely thorough – much more so than any of her colleagues we’ve previously met (bearing in mind that this is the fucking third time we’ve been burgled). Although she didn’t say much, it did appear that she had got some evidence from various things.
  • The male peeler had been around the entries of the surrounding area, and came across a small but slick, and quite evidently new, flat screen TV – in a bin. He reasonably enough supposed that it would be unlikely to have been chucked out by its owners, and thus brought it round here briefly for the forensics woman to dust. He and his colleague also revealed that other burglaries had been reported in the area that day.
  • As the cops were rounding things off, the bloke said, “just to check, you didn’t happen to have any wallets here, did you?” We responded in the negative. He nodded, but added, “any foreign currency, no?” It then occurred to me that yes – we did have a wallet in the house after all. We go to down to the Republic every so often, and there’s always leftover Euros. A has kept them in a wallet in the kitchen for months. I relayed this information to the cop as I went into the kitchen to see if it was there. It was not. The cop asked how much was in it. “At least ‚ā¨50, plus coins,” I told him. “There was a ‚ā¨50 note in it; I’m not sure if there were additional ones, but there was definitely a fifty.”
  • I watched with interest as the police exchanged satisfied glances. The wallet with the Euros had been found on the person of one of the personnel that their colleagues had in custody. A couldn’t contain his delight at this wonderful revelation; he jumped up and down screaming, “YES!!!” with the peelers standing there watching. In later conversation, the man said to me that he’s always thrilled in cases like this – both for the victims of the crime, and for officers themselves. “It’s always really nice when we manage to get a conviction,” he smiled. Indeed it must be. They don’t get very many of them for offences like this.
  • After they’d left, I ran down the street to a lovely lady, the only one in the whole area we’ve ever really spoken to, who’d offered us tea when she first realised what had happened. I wanted to let her know what had transpired, and also to apologise if we’d appeared ignorant in refusing said tea. That was weird, because I have never been in a neighbour’s house since I moved in with A, and have only ever exchanged pleasantries and cat-related anecdotes with this woman before. But I appreciated her kindness, and enjoyed the tea and cake that she was decent enough to serve me.
  • I came back and joined A in the clean-up operation. There was glass everywhere. There were strewn bags, clothes and other assorted pieces of fuck also everywhere.
  • Thankfully, the cats were both safe. Srto Gato was here when A got back, and sat down on the sofa, right in the middle of the carnage, and went to sleep. Mr Cat was, however, nowhere to be seen, and we both worried that, twisted as these fucks clearly are, they’d hurt him. H
    e turned up about about an hour after I got home, which was a relief, though he did seem unsettled all evening. Whether he merely sensed our moods, or whether he’d borne witness to some frightening events, we are of course unable to tell.
  • Another set of cops turned up after 10pm, when things had got vaguely back to normal. They had brought the wallet, the ‚ā¨50s and the various Euro coins in separate evidence bags for us to identify as ours. Needless to say, we confirmed that they indeed were. The bloke said as he was leaving that he had “no doubt” that the case would come to court, though he added drolly, “and then they’ll get their 25p fine and get back to their games.” He stressed, assuming as he erroneously did that we completely lacked any knowledge of legal infrastructure, that things were out of their hands then. People can be imprisoned in Norn Iron for burglary, but it’s rare. Even when it happens, custodial sentences tend to be pretty low.
  • The worst thing in the aftermath of all this was that the house wasn’t secure; a bollocksed window and a cunted internal door require supervision. The upshot of that is that I’ve had to stay here when A’s been at work. I don’t mind that, but it does inhibit our ability to live our normal lives. Determined to buy fags before Gideon’s shite budget whacked the price of the vile things up by 37p per packet, I ran out at lunchtime today. In the half hour or so that I was gone – I dropped into a few food-ish places as well – I was panicking, panicking, panicking that the little cunts were out on bail (as they almost certainly are by now) and would break-in again as revenge for our part in their apprehension.
  • On Monday, A rang an “emergency” glass fitter and then The Everythinger (to whom I alluded millaria above). The glass people came out later that day, removed the window from its frame and stuck a temporary board up in its stead. They said they’d be back on Tuesday to fix the window itself. They weren’t. They weren’t today either. They eventually contacted A to tell him that it’ll be at least tomorrow, as they’re waiting on hinges. What double fucking glazing company runs out of hinges?! “Emergency” my arse. At least The Everythinger, who was horrified to hear we’d been burgled only months after he was here the last time for the same reason, is coming tomorrow (later today, whatever it is).
  • Hilarious incidental. The peelers speculated that the theiving scum were on a drunken bender as they went about the area pilfering what they could. As such, they nicked beer from our kitchen. In fact, the one bottle that was open seemed to have been drunk out of, thus meaning potential evidence. Anyway, the burglars were clearly pissed off, as evidenced by their smashing of a few of the bottles and dumping of other ones. This, we’re all pretty sure, is because they had they discovered that they contained Becks Non-Alcoholic beers ūüėÄ Hahaha!

So, if it isn’t death, cancer scares, missing cats, depression, NHS cuntery (and the destruction of that already flawed system), a potentially impending financial desert (and the macro implications of that too), or other assorted nasties, it’s fucking burglary. Thanks, 2012. You’ve brought me the bleakest start to a new year that I can recall.

Yet, comparitively speaking, I’m OK, and thus must sound a note of optimism. Well, not optimism as such, but perhaps a little faith. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Sunday, and I was very touched that the lady from down the street had offered the basic but important kindness that she did. The hard work of the cops and the generosity of this sweet stranger reminded me that sometimes when you see the worst of humanity, you also see the best too.

Thank you to Mental Healthy, their judges, nominators and sponsors for their very kind short-listing of this blog for the 2011 Mental Health Heroes awards (in the ‘Creative – Writer’ category). It’s a big honour to be featured alongside such people as the wonderful Kayla Kavanagh, her partner and carer Nigel, and the lovely Fiona Art, so thank you again ūüôā

Anyone want to volunteer for TWIM or TNIM? You know you want to. Email me.

I can’t be arsed to proof-read this right now, sorry. It always mortifies me that my narratives could be error-laden, but I’m too tired to care as much as I should.

Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

A lot happened this week, but I have neither the time nor inclination to discuss it in detail. Perhaps next week. In summary: I saw Paul on Tuesday for our first ‘proper’ therapy session of the new stint. A bit of a weird dynamic was present – I babbled relentlessly, flitting from one random tangent to another rather than discussing anything remotely meaningful. Not that he agreed, of course; he opined, as he always does, that anything that runs through my mind (aside, perhaps, from “oh, look, the sun’s out” – though could that be read as an example of avoidance?) is worthy of raising in the therapeutic setting, and can give insights into my psyche. That said, he did admit at the end of the appointment that things had been a bit up in the air (I forget his specific terminology), and said we’d get down to some proper work next week. I await it with interest – but not at all without trepidation.

Last weekend I decided I was going to turn a corner of the kitchen into an office. I don’t think I can do much about it right now, but I think if I have a future, then I ought to have something to aim for – and I’ve decided that this will be professional writing. My dream: to register as a sole trader business, and make at least a part-time income from writing – and no longer have to claim at least some of my welfare benefits (I would like to think I could keep my Disability Living Allowance, on the grounds that the disability remains, but that in having my own workplace I don’t have to engage with general office tradition, which would exacerbate my illnesses). I know I’m capable of professional writing now – or, at least, I know other people think I’m capable, and that matters much more in this arena than my own self-assessments – and I’m building a few contacts. For now, that is all it is – a dream. A few commissions here or there doesn’t really mean much, but I’ve narcissistically (why is that not a word, spellcheck? Incidentally, why is spellcheck not a word when it’s the precise term WordPress uses to refer to this utility?) got it into my head now that I can achieve this if I don’t do myself in any time soon. When I mentioned the proposed office to A, he suggested that instead of setting it up in the kitchen, I actually reconvert our former study – lately, since the advent of The Everythinger, nothing more than a place for dumping stuff we can’t be bothered to sort out.

It seemed more palatable than the kitchen, admittedly: for one, it’s fucking cold in the kitchen no matter how long the heat stays on. Secondly, as I am not wont to be in the former study much, with a bit of re-configuration, it will feel more like an office than part of this house. Currently I do all my work sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knee – but I do all my fucking about in this fashion too, and ergo it is difficult to associate the environment with work specifically. The study in many ways resembles – or will resemble, when I have it sorted – my office in my last job: small, but with everything necessary to get on with the task at hand. As such, I feel that I can ‘trick’ my brain into thinking that the proposed office will actually be a workspace, rather than a mere spare room.

We ordered a new desk, which arrived on Wednesday. I sat down to it last night and, aside from a few side panels that A had fitted, built the entire thing from scratch. It is (optionally) an ‘L’ shape, and has ample surface area, meaning that aside from the PC and laptop, I’ll have plenty of room to write by hand, consult the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, or study the professional writing course materials I bought several years ago.

All of that, particularly my suggestion about setting my writing projects up as a business, is a long way off – because right now I’m not a professional writer, but a professional mental. I even get paid for it! Though for how much longer?

As you may have gathered from the last couple of posts, things are dreadful. It’s at the point now where people are noticing: when I can no longer maintain a fa√ßade, then I know things are bad. My mother has even realised that the excrement has been liberally sprayed in the general direction of the thermantidote, and that is a tremendously dangerous sign, since I have always attempted to muster every last atom of energy my mind and body possess into convincing her that everything is fine (the reason being that she shouldn’t have to worry about me all the time).

As if things were not bad enough, therefore, when I got up yesterday morning and found an ESA50* form waiting for me, I thought I was literally going to have a heart attack – I hyperventilated so fucking much that I could see no way that my heart could continue to pump blood around my not-insubstantial body.

My ma immediately said, “we’ll take it to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.” Reasonable advice, to be sure, but she’d missed the point; the point was that, re-fucking-gardless of how competent the CAB may have been in the completion of the bloody thing, I would almost certainly still have to attend a medical examination with the fuckwitted social security agency. I know I’ve written in passing about one of my previous exposures to this immense trauma…where?…ah yes, here it is. (*This post also explains a bit about ESA ((which stands for Employment and Support Allowance)) to those of you outside the UK. Basically, it’s a disability/illness benefit – but it has two components that complicate it, which the aforelinked posts discusses). After that experience – and even regardless of it – I genuinely don’t think that I can go through another assessment of this ilk (or of any, come to that). Not any time soon; pipedreams or not, I’m still really ill. I told my mother that if I had to go through such an encounter, that I would end my life.

Fortuitously, I had an appointment with Christine in the early afternoon. Since the hospital in which I see her is close to the CAB, I took the form with me. I went in, sat down, when asked reported that since our last encounter everything was still appalling, uncopably (new word) terrible, and that “the icing on the fucking cake” had just arrived, at which point I pulled the ESA50 out of my handbag.

She shook her head in frustration – “everyone’s getting those bloody things!” – and I repeated my promise that if I was called to a medical I would commit suicide.

Christine said, “I’ll complete it for you. At least that will be a weight off your mind.”

“That would be brilliant, thank you,” I replied, “but won’t they still send for me anyway?”

She told me that she is getting the impression that the Social Securitcunts have been sending out the forms to weed out the few “scroungers” that exist in the system, and also to catch out those with a mild to moderate illness, who they (quite possibly erroneously) perceive as being able to work. She exemplified by telling me about a patient of her’s that has mild, borderline moderate, depression. “She’s been found fit for work,” Christine explained, “but honestly, Pandora, there are things she could do. Not everyone’s in that boat, and in fact most of my patients haven’t even been called to a medical, and these forms have been arriving through their letterboxes since the start of January.”

“Are you saying that you think I won’t have to go to an examination?” I checked.

“I’d make an educated guess that when I’ve finished with this” – she nodded with contempt at the form – “it’s highly unlikely.”

She smiled conspiratorially at me, but I pressed on with my concerns. She wasn’t saying definitively that I’d not have to go to the fucking thing, after all.

Eventually she said, when I had finished yet another monologue of social security-driven angsty misery, that if they did call me to an examination, that she and NewVCB would write to the bastards advising them that I would be unable to attend, as to do so would be “severely and dangerously detrimental to my mental health.”

I stared at my CPN in something akin to wonder. “Really?” I murmured in a small voice laden with disbelief.

“Yes,” she said definitely. “So don’t worry. I’ll deal with this, send it off to them, give you a photocopy at our next appointment – and if an ‘invitation’ letter turns up at your door, contact me, and we’ll make it go away.”

“Thank you,” I almost-sobbed. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

Christine dismissed my gratitude – not in an unappreciative way, just in the sense that she was happy to provide the service and information that she had – as part of her job. Then she said, “you’ll be horrified when you read what I’ve written. Try not to be. They need to hear the very worst aspects of your illness; yeah, some people could accuse me of extending the truth, but I don’t think that’s the case. The case is that all of what I am going to write has happened and even though you’re taking measures to control these things, the unfortunate truth is that they also have the potential to happen again…possibly at any point.”

“Why would I be ‘horrified’ that you accurately explained the most severe symptoms of my illnesses?”

She sighed. “The voices tried to get you to kill yourself. They tried to get you to kill your baby cousin. Cameras follow you wherever you go and GCHQ are obsessed by you. You’re endlessly suspicious of people, and are cripplingly anxious when you’re forced to be in any proximity to them. Some days you can’t get out of bed due to overwhelming depression. You have, at times, to be watched to make sure you don’t harm yourself. There will be occasions on which people have to remind you to take your tablets – or even make you do so.”

She paused, flicking through the form, then added that one of the key parts of the mental health section of the ESA50 was about interaction with other human beings. “Given the aforementioned symptoms, that’s not…er…well, it wouldn’t really work for you, would it?” Ah, the sweet scent of diplomacy.

We talked about other stuff. Paul. Writing. Mum’s cancer scare. Rhona’s operation (with which there were no complications but lots of pain followed by a hook-up to morphine, which was removed five days after the procedure and even then caused quite significant withdrawal symptoms). An increase in Lamictal to help me with this current vault of depression (she’s going to discuss this with NewVCB on Monday). The exact nature of how low I felt, not that I could quantify it in words. I was acutely aware that I was acting very differently around her from my norm; regardless of how I’m feeling, I usually witter on and on and on, engaging with her non-verbally too – often it belies the reality of my mental (ill) health, but it seems to come naturally around her anyway. This was completely different. I steadfastly avoided eye contact, one of their favourite observations, and apart from issues surrounding the ESA50, I didn’t speak much at all. In fact, to my abject horror and disgust, at one point I believed I looked like I was close to tears. I didn’t cry, thank fuck – I can’t imagine the shame that would have been wedded to that – but I suspect that Christine thought I was on the verge of it.

Anyway, she was brilliant. My current episode continues, and no doubt will not abate for quite a while – either more Lamictal will help, or the vileness of the low will end itself in some sort of cyclical fashion, or I’ll off myself before any improvement manifests. But for now, what would have been one of the most serious stressors this year – as if there have not been enough already – has been removed from my responsibility. I didn’t thank her enough, because I can’t thank her enough.

The only downside to her brilliance is that it makes me even more sad and distressed that thanks to non-sensical bureaucratic bullshit I may well lose her. Good mental health professionals like her, ones that actually seem to care about you, are sadly uncommon ūüė¶

I’m in a rush so haven’t proof-read this, for which my apologies are due to you. Please forgive the probable multitude of errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling in the foregoing. Thanks x

…And the NHS Cocks It Up Again

I had a psychiatric appointment on Wednesday morning. In terms of interaction with NewVCB regarding myself, it was fairly unremarkable. I apprised her of the various events that had occurred since I’d last seen her – Maisie’s death;¬†seeing Paedo;¬†the fact that the doctor’s bloody “surgery” screwed up my Lamictal script for several weeks; the kitten, Srto Gato, had temporarily (yet stressfully) disappeared (the latter two being stuff I’ve not ((yet)) discussed here); and that¬†I saw Paul again.

Essentially, although she had intended to decrease my dosage of Seroquel at this appointment, she decided against it because of the fuckery of the last few weeks. She wants me to get back on some sort of even keel that involves a minimum of external stressors before pissing about with the stuff, an assessment with which I agreed wholeheartedly. I said, “in light of particularly stressful events that previously occurred with various personnel from [Hotel California], I was very, very¬†glad to be taking anti-psychotics over the last few months.”

NewVCB understood. Although 400mg, the dose to which we are intending to reduce the Seroquel (at least in the short-term), had at one point prevented some of my psychotic symptoms, given that the last six weeks or so have been really shit, it would be ill advised to take any chances at the minute.

I did ask about increasing the Lamictal, however. I’m currently taking 100mg, and my internet readings have suggested the therapeutic dose is generally between 150 – 200mg. NewVCB disputed this, though; she said that 100mg is the usual standard in the (admittedly uncommon) circumstances in which she prescribes it.

“I’d prefer to keep it at 100mg for now,” she advised, “in part because you had a break in it enforced upon you, so it’ll take some time for you to entirely re-adjust to it. Thus it’ll take a few weeks to see its full effects again. Then, we can see.”

That seemed fair enough. In terms of the Seroquel, I said to her that I’d lost a lot of my appetite in the last, say, eight to 10 weeks, so at least in terms of weight gain, reducing the dose wasn’t as ‘urgent’ as it had once seemed. I told her that I’d read that Lamictal could sometimes cause weight loss, or at least a reduction in appetite, and she confirmed that this was indeed the case from time to time. She said she was pleased that this had been the case for me, not because she dared to opine that I had a plenitude of blubber surrounding all corners of my body (though clearly I do), but because she knew how annoying my weight gain had been for me especially when I’d been losing¬†so much of my pre-existing fat until I started taking 600mg of this heinous drug.

And that was pretty much that.

Except that it wasn’t.

“Um…now, Pandora, there’s, er, something I need to discuss with you,” she said ominously.

Oh my fucking God. She’s leaving.¬†Oh fuck! Fuck! Just when I thought things with the NHS were actually getting me somewhere!¬†The¬†incipient dread I felt as soon as each word of the sentence left her lips grew overwhelming very quickly.

“The NHS are changing things again,” NewVCB sighed.

Again?! [I can’t find any posts on this, aside from my review of my first appointment with NewVCB, but it was due to NHS changes that my consultant was changed from (Old)VCB to her in the first place, and that was only two years ago. What the fuck? More bureaucratic – and no doubt costly – bullshit from the fucking¬†NHS. What a sack of shite!].

She saw my face, and shot me a sympathetic glance. “I’m moving to [Big Scary Hospital],” she said. “Until recently, it was just assumed that I’d take all my patients from your GP’s surgery with me – but…God, this drives me to distraction! They’re re-drawing geographical boundaries, so right now I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may or may not be taking all such patients. I really have no idea at the minute.”

She was clearly frustrated by this fuckwank herself.

I drew a breath, then ventured, “Obviously – and I know you can’t do anything about it – I’d prefer to ‘stay with you’ if I possibly can.”

“I know. I know. I wish I could give you something more concrete at this stage, but I can’t unfortunately.” She shook her head and twisted her mouth in obvious vexation.

She continued by asking me exactly where my address was in the area, but although I could see her trying to mentally calculate whether or not the house was affected by the boundary change, she came up with nothing but a blank.

“When is this taking place?” I asked. “I mean, if I don’t move with you, will I see you again?”

“Oh, yes, yes – I’ll see you again in six weeks or so. This shouldn’t be happening until two to six months hence.”

I nodded, but something else occurred to me then. “Assuming for a minute that I do¬†move with you. What about Christine?”

“Well. In the long-term, they’re planning on moving the whole team – whatever ‘long-term’ means. But it certainly won’t be any time soon, so if you come with me, you’ll have to get another CPN.”

FUCK!

“And if I don’t go with you..?”

“Then you’ll still have Christine, here, but you’ll be moved to a new consultant.”

FUCK!

This is so fucking unfair. Just when things were going so well with my psychiatric team. Having both¬†a CPN and a consultant that you really like,¬†both¬†seeming to genuinely want to help you – that’s not at all common, especially in this bloody Health Service. And now, regardless of what happens, I’m going to lose 50% of that to a quantity entirely unknown. For all I know, the replacement for either the psychiatrist or the nurse could be fucking amazing – but my longer-term experience of the Psychiatric Service does not lend me to having a great deal of hope about that. Furthermore, even if the person were¬†brilliant, I’m happy with things as they are. I like¬†them! I like NewVCB and Christine! I want to stay with them both!

Don’t cuntwits like Mr Director-Person – who, as the head of mental health at the Trust, is at least partially responsible for this idiocy – realise that this kind of¬†upheaval is likely to only increase¬†illness, and therefore increase costs?¬†That, as a mental, it takes long enough to become settled with members of staff – and that breaking that confidence and trust is likely to lead to breakdowns, misery and crippling anxiety?

Well, of course Mr D-P doesn’t realise that. He doesn’t realise anything¬†about mental health, because he’s nothing more than a general manager, and always has been – he comes from a business-y private sector perspective, that isn’t even remotely tangential to mentalism.¬†So no, despite all the fucking risk assessments they’ve no doubt claimed to have undertaken, he and his cronies have no idea what it’s like on the fucking ground, in the fucking real world, of someone with (a) mental health condition(s). It’s alright for him to sit in his inviolable ivory tower of an office, and play about with geographical lines on a computer (or, more likely, ‘getting his secretary to play about with geographical lines on a computer’ whilst he plays that little mini-golf game you always see¬†executives¬†figuratively masturbating over). It’s not alright when the ramifications of that feed back down to patients who are, as a direct result, going to suffer like fuck.

And nobody can do a damn thing about it. Fuck the Trust. I can’t for the life of me work out what it is¬†that they care about, but it certainly¬†isn’t their patients ‘service users’. Bastards.

Ending Therapy: How To (Mostly But Not Entirely) Do It Properly – Paul: Week 25, Part II

This post is continued from here. What follows will not make a great deal of sense unless you’ve read that first; however, it mostly likely won’t make a great deal of sense if you have. I disclaim any culpability for the boredom, confusion and irritation at the mammoth self-indulgence that you will find in the forthcoming. If you want to ruin 20 minutes of your day by continuing to tolerate this complete and utter nonsense, then you do so at YOUR OWN RISK. Now, rather than bother with this bullshit, why don’t you have yourself a nice pint instead?

After a contemplative silence, Paul moved back to discussing my writing projects; he wanted to know what they were about. I was forced to admit that everything I have been doing in this sphere has been about mentalism. Even my proposed novel is going to be about mental health issues.

I defended the piece for Rethink on the grounds that it is about my recovery from borderline personality disorder. As I stated to Paul, there is a false perception that BPD is incurable and that, furthermore, there are a billion myths out there about how people with the disorder can’t have loving relationships, or that they’re abusive, etc etc, ad infinitum (Zarathustra noted that I’d debunked some of this bullwank in my writing of this blog, which I hope is true). In that way, I think that article was a very important one to write, because these fallacies need to be corrected, and people afflicted with BPD deserve to have some genuine hope of recovery.

However, as I’m sure many of you will agree, living a life narrative entirely dictated by one’s mental illness is a potentially dangerous idea. I should, at least sometimes, write about normal stuff (insofar as anything is ‘normal’). I told him that I was considering resurrecting the Not as Smart as Pandora Braithwaite blog, which had once been my haven to bang on about telly, the arseholery of Facebook, gaming – normal things in which I take an interest, rather than being devoted to the exclusive domain of mental health or the lack thereof.

Indeed, at about the time of this session, when I was feeling so much better, my prolific posting here on Confessions went notably down. This was because I was living in that fabled place called real life and, y’know…doing stuff.

“Well,” he said, looking piercingly over his glasses at me, “I take what you’re saying, and mostly agree. But you don’t want to be too sane in your writing. That would see you suppressing that pained part of yourself yet again.”

Ha. Would it really. I don’t often use this blog to ‘let loose’ with feeling and emotion, and I am certainly not going to do that with any published pieces. That is just not me.

Rather than labour the point, though, I returned to my old favourite Freudian dictum about the transition from “hysteria” to “ordinary unhappiness.”

To my considerable consternation, Paul started quoting that arsehole R.D. Laing whose tolchock, were he still alive, I would take pleasure in punching. Paul claims that, as per Laing’s advice, he suspends his concept of normality when working with clients. At some point or another, he also alluded to Adam Philips and his book Going Sane. In short, he was blathering about how we are all mad in our own way. Laing-hatred notwithstanding, I did have to concede that point to him.

“The problem I face,” I sighed, “is that I have been out of work for so long now that all I know is mentalness and the pertinent issues surrounding it. It has entirely become my life, yet people in the real world don’t care. They don’t spend their days talking about psychosis or manic depression or borderline personality disorder. They talk about the weather, last night’s shit TV, politics and salary cuts. They don’t care.” I briefly (and anonymously) alluded to a post that Seaneen had written on this subject (a second excellent article she wrote on the issue for One in Four can be found here).

Seaneen is still highly involved with organisations like Rethink, but her own mental health is not the sole kaleidoscope through which she sees life these days; her life is about her boyfriend, her family and friends, and her mental health nursing course, which is an amazing thing, and something to which to aspire. Could it ever be that way for me, though? I have no idea, but one thing I do know is that I have a right gob on me, and whether normals care or not, I will end up talking about mentalism. I mean, I just won’t walk into a room and go, “hi, my name’s Pandora. Yours? … Nice name, I like that. Anyway, I’m mental. … No, I mean really mental. I had borderline personality disorder and still have manic depression and complex PTSD with psychotic and dissociative features. … Hey! Where are you going? … What did I say?!” No, obviously not like that. But if someone says, “where did you get that scar from?” or “so, what were you doing before I met you?” I am going to tell them the truth (see my posts on speaking up here and here).

Having babbled all that out, I concluded my monologue to Paul by saying that although I’m not sure about the accuracy of the perennial ‘one in four’ statistic, that at least it serves as a sort of motif to highlight the prevalence of mental health difficulties in society. “So why not speak up?” I pondered. “Fuck stigma. Fighting it is my cause c√©l√®bre.”

He said, “I work five days a week, and I’m off for two – so I get a break from the intensity that inevitably comes with my job. You, however, never get a break from your mind.”

I nodded pointlessly.

He went on, “so wouldn’t it be nice if you could not be mental for, say, two days a week?”

I nodded pointlessly again.

“So…could you take a break from your cause c√©l√®bre for a couple of days a week?”

Of course I can. I already do. I don’t spend every single sodding day trying to play some sort of omnipotent mental health warrior advocate. However, that does not mean that I can somehow turn off my mind during those non-advocacy periods, as his penultimate comment had insinuated. If it were that simple, I would have no mental health problems at all, would I?!

Nevertheless, he asked me in what activities I could engage that did not pertain to madness. I monotoned out the usual list you might expect to see on the ‘what are your interests’ section of a social network or dating profile. For some reason, that led to a short discussion around my frequent disconnections from the world at large – how I push this laptop away, religiously ignore my phone, and hide alone in my living room, pretending that no one else exists.

I shrugged. “That’s not healthy, is it?”

“There’s a fine line there,” Paul replied, cocking his head in muse. “Overall I think that whether or not it’s healthy, it’s more normal than not – but I suppose it depends on the extent of it.”

“You see, I struggle with this a lot,” I complained. “If you will permit my use of psychiatric parlance for once, where does pathology end and idiosyncrasy begin? Or, indeed, vice versa.”

As you know, most darling readers, I’ve been grateful for my diagnoses, and have found having a name for the various aspects of my insanity to be helpful in several ways. However, I still think this issue is a very valid criticism of the practice and more general discipline of psychiatry. I suppose the line is where the ‘idiosyncrasy’ becomes distressing to the ‘idiosyncrasist’ (indeed, for this reason, there is an ongoing debate about the validity of schizoid personality disorder as a discrete condition), but even that line can be blurred.

“My wife has a great-uncle that the family frequently describe as ‘eccentric’,” Paul told me. “When they mentioned it in front of me, I responded by saying that that simply meant that he was mad, but with money.”

I laughed. A fair enough assessment – most people I’ve heard described as ‘eccentric’ would broadly fit within that bracket.

Anyway, he had reminded me of a conversation I’d once had with Mike, my erstwhile teacher. For some reason Mike and I had been talking about how well (or indeed badly) we fitted in with social norms, and I characterised myself as, indeed, “eccentric.”

“No, Pandora,” he’d responded. “Not ‘eccentric’. You’re individual.”

Paul liked this little anecdote. Apparently Mike’s “eloquent” distinction had touched upon Paul’s perceived truth that psychiatry involves a certain amount of repression of one’s individuality. He banged on that sanity and insanity are concepts created by times and places.

He’s right – to a point. Psychiatry is an imperfect science, if indeed it can be said to be a science at all, and if we consider the inclusion of homosexuality as a mental illness as recently as the DSM-III, I can agree that some supposed diagnoses are societally constructed. Despite my general support for this field, I do accept those criticisms of it, and have never denied them. But, as I said, there’s a point, surely, when that can no longer be true. I’m told, reliably so, that hallucinating gnomes and being so severely depressed that all you can think about is killing yourself on a chronic basis are not normal states in which to exist…and I would believe that that, at least, transcends times and places.

Not that I had the balls to say any of that to Paul. I sat there, nodding pathetically compliantly. What the fuck, Pandora? Am I afraid of him unwitting me or something? Of looking less intelligent than him (which, frankly, I probably am)? Why can I debate my points intelligently and coherently online or even in the fucking pub, but not do it with Paul? What a stupid bitch.

As I allowed his anti-psychiatry rhetoric to progress, I found myself becoming vaguely irritated with him again. Not because of his opposition to that field per se, but because of how he related it back to me. One thing that had apparently been “big” in his engagement with me had been “peeling back the layers” that were “enforced upon” me: diagnoses, medical examinations, medication.

“It’s like it’s been forgotten,” he intoned with an infuriating earnestness, “that somewhere in there is an abused little girl.” [Emphasis mine. I am SO unutterably fucking sick of that fucking fucking fucking term. Jesus hot jumping Christ sliding down a shit-stick. Just. Fucking. Stop. Fucking. Calling. Her. Fucking. That. GAH!]

(Hypocritical) Ranting about terminology aside, this assessment of my situation was not fair. NewVCB has been really good about the abuse bullshit; she usually asks me at some point during each appointment how things are in my head in relation to that subject. She doesn’t just wank endlessly on about my current symptoms, blindly throwing medication at me as a result. OK, so she doesn’t go into intimate, cringe-worthy detail about the whole sordid mess when I’m with her – but guess what, Paul? She isn’t fucking meant to. That’s your job. You’re the therapist, she’s the the psychiatrist. Simple.

More irritably than I’d intended, I retorted that I had not been a “nice little girl,” as he appeared to opine. As I said, “I was precocious, and because of that I was haughty and arrogant at times. In that way my current predilections toward so-called intellectualising are entirely in keeping with my child self.” My point in saying so had been to infer to him that this constant bollocking on about me v my repressed self was not as clear-cut as he might like to think.

He hammered on for a bit with a story he’d told me before. Little boy falls in the playground, maintains a stiff upper lip all day long, eventually sees his mother and then bursts into tears. Containment, blah de blah, yadda yadda.

“It’s a harsh judgement to describe yourself as precocious. You had to be precocious to survive,” he declared.

Oh really? I mean, seriously?

  1. This particular elucidation implicitly suggests that being precocious is an inherently bad thing. Why the fuck should that be the case? Surely being an intelligent child is something to be welcomed, something that both that child and those around it should find gratifying?
  2. I can’t prove anything, but I’d be stunned if precociousness and abuse are directly correlated. I’m all but certain that not every smart child has been/is being abused, and I’m equally sure that not every abused child is demonstrably highly intelligent.
  3. On a related note, why does everything have to come back to abuse and spurious psychodynamic interpretation? Can’t some things just fucking be?

Palpably uncomfortable with the direction in which this conversation was headed, I tried to shift the subject – but I did it subtly, so that it was still ostensibly related to what he’d said. I said that, in a non-literal sense, from what I could remember I had been a Jekyll and Hyde type of kid. The weird, insular one that despite her then-popularity couldn’t relate to her peers – and then the ordinary, outgoing person that most of the world saw.

“I don’t recall having any distressing examples of mental illness until at least my late childhood,” I told him, though now that I think about it, that can’t be true. I tried to strangle myself when I was nine, and I had that constant, horrid somatic feature of itchy feet with such sickening frequency – so evidently some shit was definitely hitting some fans there. But then, I have so many anamnestic gaps when it comes to my brathood that I can’t easily tell you what the conditions generally were.

“In retrospect,” I continued, “obviously I was a bit barmy – I mean, I lived nightly with pseudo-hallucinations and a delusion that a terrorist was right outside my door, every single night. But I don’t recall being chronically unhappy.”

Paul jumped on the terrorist comment with a force that could turn this metaphor literal. He said, “‘terrorised’ is a pretty good word to describe what you must have felt about the abuse, isn’t it?”

It depends whether you subscribe to the etymological or legal definition of the word ‘terrorism’, I suppose. Me, I tend to view terrorism as a macro phenomenon, ostensibly carried out for political or religious reasons (but really carried out simply because you’re a fucking cunt). It’s all very well for Paul to draw parallels between Paedo and my horrified dread each night that I was about to be murdered, but perhaps he forgets my age and my origin. I grew up in Northern Ireland in the ’80s and early ’90s. Terrorism was a very real issue here and then. Could there not be some connection to that, rather than everything always being about being a paedophile’s plaything?

“I’m reminded of a client I used to work with,” he said, as I sat there wondering silently when he might realise that not everything should be narrowed down to Freudian analysis. “When he first properly started communicating with me, he said, ‘I’ve put a bomb under your car’.”

I regarded Paul with an expression of complete revulsion. What a vile thing to say – especially to someone who’s meant to be helping you!

“It was his way of saying, ‘how would you feel if your life were threatened?'” Paul explained. “He had to find some way of expressing how his deepest fears affected him, and that was it.”

Maybe so; I can understand the context of the remark, I suppose, but it feels re-abusive to me – and much as I sympathise and empathise with any abuse victim, re-enacting what happened to you by abusing another is not on in my book (there’s a lot I could say on that, but this post ((and its predecessor)) is ((are)) already stupidly long and way too introspective vis a vis what it’s ((they’re)) meant to actually be discussing).

“In the same way, your most buried terror was expressed – perfectly appropriately – as fear of a terrorist,” Paul was continuing. “Do you remember when we first commenced this therapy that I told you that all clients are geniuses? Well, there’s a perfect example of it. That was a genius thing to do.”

Whilst there can be no doubt that the human mind is capable of great things, I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with the assertion that it simply doing its unconscious job is something worthy of being considered ‘genius’. Surely genius involves intellect, which involves thinking, which surely involves conscious consideration? Still, I’m not a psychologist. A widely-read layperson, maybe, but by no means an expert.

“I firmly believe,” Paul continued, “that all delusional stuff is based in reason.”

I can see what he’s saying, to be fair, and I acknowledged that. The connection he was making in my case is at least arguable. However, what about the cases where a person believes that he or she is Jesus Christ or something? That’s not me rejecting Paul’s claims outright, by the way. It’s a genuine query; in all seriousness, where does that come from, and in what way would it be functional?

In any case, I went on to tell him that I’d gone through very little psychotic experiences in the couple of months that had led up to this session – a few whispers from fringe facets of the odious ‘They‘, but nothing more than that. Rather than simply be glad of it, though, he irked me a little by stating that he was sure that NewVCB would “chalk that up to the wonders of Seroquel.”

Again, this was unfair. As she had openly stated to me once, she only cares about ‘what works’ – and for me, that seems to have been a combination of therapy and psychopharmacology. Moreover, I would chalk my lack of psychosis up to Seroquel myself in many ways – but I’m willing to acknowledge that therapy has also played its part. What’s so terrible about a dual approach?!

He ranted a bit about how Seroquel in particular was being “handed out like sweeties” these days (first I’ve heard of it), but when I actually went to defend both it and psychiatric diagnoses – as useful adjuncts and guidance in the treatment of mentalness respectively – he curiously backed down.

And this is why he’s not a dick. We may disagree, and I may rant here about issues over which there could have been minor conflicts, but he’s not a dick. Ultimately, despite some of his more sarky reactions to my defence of psychiatry in the past, he is willing to respect me as an individual, with individual views. And while, in another time and place, the disagreements we have may have merited longer discussion, that was not possible here, and it was of the upmost importance to him – and me – that we parted on a convivial note.

And suddenly, that note of departure was finally realised. Paul said, his voice deep with regret,”we’ve come to the end.”

As I stood, he told me that it had “really been a pleasure” working with me, and that he would “truly miss” our sessions. I advised him that the feeling was entirely mutual, and went on to tell him that I intended to re-refer myself to the organisation come September or October (as I now have done). I asked if that was too soon, but he said that it wasn’t – as long as I was comfortable with that timeframe, then he was too.

“I look forward to working with you again,” he assured me, as he opened and held the door for me for the final time.

The last bits of these things are always the most awkward. How do you say ‘goodbye’ in a professional but affectionate manner? Rarely have I felt so horribly exposed as the socially awkward knob that I am. After handing him his pound of flesh, I suddenly grabbed his hand, shook it and said that it had “been a pleasure” working with him. Almost before he could respond, I smiled idiotically at him and told him to take care.

“You too,” he said unsurely, but with palpable warmth.

We said our goodbyes, and I left hurriedly. My car was close, and as I had done when things ended with C, I sat in the driver’s seat for quite a while ruminating on the ramifications of the (thankfully temporary) cessation of the relationship. Rather than bawl my eyes out though, I allowed myself to shed one single tear of mourning, then wiped my eyes, shot myself a reassuring grin in the rear-view mirror, and drove away.

Ending Therapy: How To (Mostly) Do It Properly – Paul: Week 25, Part I

“So this is it,” he declared, his tone swathed in unwitting drama.

“Yes,” I pointlessly confirmed.

Paul and I looked at each other – what does one say when one comes to the end of a relationship? If the relationship is romantic, although the words are difficult, they’re clear (mostly). If you’re ending a friendship, you generally let it peter out without any particular show-down. But when you’re ending a relationship whose very point is its ending – so as you can live a better life without it – what do you say?

I never did write in detail about my final session with C in August 2010. In short, I sat there defiantly, refusing to tell him my future plans. He whinged a bit about not knowing what would happen to me (something that NewVCB, much to my chagrin, revealed to him – bloody bitch!), and I took satisfaction in his ignorance. When it was over, instead of the normal, “we’ll have to leave it there for today,” he said, “we’ll have to leave it all there.” I stood up, with dignity I think, reluctantly shook his outstretched hand, bade him goodbye, and walked down the corridor with my head held high.

When I got into my car, however, I sat and cried for 20 minutes before finally driving away, but – unless he’s been reading this bilge, which (given the Mind Award nomination and a piece I had in a national publication that I know he reads a few months ago) is actually not impossible – he doesn’t know that.

Anyway, the End of Times with Paul was much more amiable and respectful (as if you couldn’t have guessed that!), excepting a few niggles that I’ll play up later for the purposes of rant material (I’ve noted from my archives that my bitching about C was far more entertaining than my appreciation of Paul, so…). I didn’t piss about trying to keep my future plans secret; Paul made it very clear that he had found working with me to be a challenging but fascinating (!) and enriching (!!) experience; I concluded that ultimately, psychotherapy with him had been greatly beneficial to me. 25 weeks with him compared to 63 with C, the latter having left me in a worst psychological position than when I’d first met him (though the extent to which C is to blame for that is, of course, debatable).

I hope you don’t think I’m employing some sort of apotheosis in the regard I hold for Paul. As the last session (and, to an extent, this one) demonstrate(d), he is not perfect for me; but our differences and any potential conflict points are minor enough that they can be mostly overlooked, and although I still view the concept of therapeutic transference as a beneficial phenomenon in terms of long-term therapy, in terms of a short-term interaction, I think that I shared a healthier relationship with Paul than I did with C. Time has numbed the agony of the bitter wounds I felt so profoundly regarding the latter, to the extent where I feel a bit bad saying that, but overall I can only speak my truth, and that’s it.

Anyhow, in an entirely predictable twist of fate, Paul finally asked me how I felt about the end of the process. “And how well have we done?” he added.

“Fairly well,” I concluded. “I mean, I don’t think 25 weeks is an adequate timeframe for any psychological therapy, but that said, within the weeks that we’ve had, I think a lot of progress has been made – at the very least, we’ve made a good start.”

I also observed that the fact that I was able to return to Nexus in future was a reassurance and, further, that perhaps a break was actually a good thing, given how intense the process had at times been.

He reported (and I concurred) that in his view we had had a “really healthy” relationship, and he stated how much he’d enjoyed working with me. The experience was “very powerful”, apparently. An intriguing comment, I felt; what is even remotely ‘powerful’ about talking to an intellectual snob that loathes the child she used to be and is ambivalent towards the person that abused that child? I personally think it’s fucked up, but who am I to question the judgement of others?

Paul broke into this internal train of rumination. “It’s always great when you’re able to strip away layers, and meet the real person,” he was saying. “And when you get there, you see that there’s a really nice person sitting there.”

I winced at this, and it must have been visible to him, because he laughed at the implied self-invective inherent in my expression.

“You know I have an aversion to compliments,” I hissed, almost spitting the final word out of my mouth.

He laughed again and said, “yes, that’s why I said it!”

Cheeky sod. I am so not ‘really nice’. I mean, even if I were likable – and I don’t necessarily believe that I am – ‘nice’ is such a pathetic word. Paul meant well in his employment of it, I know, but seriously. Before I met A, I went on a few dates that would never have led anywhere. Through same, I met one bloke in particular who seemed genuinely interested in me: the reason that it would never have worked, though, was because he was just so nice. There was no passion, no fire. Just…niceness. I wouldn’t even describe my best mates as ‘nice’. My best friends are smart, funny, witty, irreverent, yadda yadda. They’re not nice. ‘Nice’ is not a ‘nice’ word (as a general rule. There are exceptions – how else would you prove the rule?).

Anyway, that was a pointlessly stupid tangent. I eventually responded to Paul by saying that I had been at a stage in my life for a wee bit where I could accept compliments by saying “thank you,” as opposed to my previous automatic responses of, “oh, you can’t be serious – have you not seen how ugly/fat/boring/stupid/inept at cutting hedges/unable to operate a unicycle using only my tongue/whatever I am?!” Nevertheless, despite my newly found skills in using the words ‘thank you’, being complimented still leaves me squirming.

I exemplified by talking about a mate of ours, who has made no particular secret of the fact that he has something of a crush on me (something I don’t get in itself, mais oui). After imbibing a few too many on-offer pints in his company one evening, I made a thinly veiled reference to the sexual abuse to him. He started wanking on and on and on about how ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ and ‘intelligent’ and ‘charismatic’ etc I supposedly am. Despite the lowering of inhibitions contingent upon the consumption of alcohol, I still felt horrified by all his gushing. Yeah, there was a part of me that was intimidated by the fact that he has an attraction to me – but it was more than that. It was the praise itself that perturbed me; had it come from someone without an ostensible ‘thing’ for me, I’d have felt the same.

Paul – for the second time, I think – alluded to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo novels. Apparently, the protagonist interprets all support as having an ulterior motive or as being a trick. This led to her being viewed by others as paranoid, but Paul contended that she was responding contextually appropriately in light of her previous relationships, which had been used to manipulate and deceive her.

I empathised entirely with this position; as I told him, one of the rules I’ve lived by for pretty much as long as I can remember is that “everyone is a {insert expletive noun of your choice here} until they prove otherwise.”

“Is that as bad as it was?” he asked.

“No,” I replied – and I am surprised by how genuinely I felt (and, I think, feel) that. “And things in general aren’t as bad as they were.” I told him about the non-Confessions writing projects I’d taken on. An article for Rethink’s Your Voice magazine, for example (not sure when that’s being published, but as and when I know, I’ll advise any readers that care). Latterly some articles for Mind’s blog. Being able to do these things was testament to my improved psychological condition.

“But I think the best measurement of my recovery is exemplified by A’s experience of things,” I mused. “I can’t externally assess my condition, whereas he can. We went from my intention to poison myself with helium to going out geocaching, writing articles and even considering voluntary work.”

As I told Paul, A had also considered my ability to drive in Fuerteventura as an almost perfect metaphor of how far I had come.

[Incidentally, in an entirely predictable reversal of fortune, it’s a measure of relapse that I haven’t been geocaching for months, have only done a little writing and have not applied for the proposed voluntary position. But at the time of this session – June – I was feeling positive and was looking forward.]

There was a silence for a minute or two, then Paul asked what I was doing for me. Apparently that which I had detailed previously, with the exception of geocaching, was about stuff I was doing for others.

“There’s a certain amount of self-interest in the writing,” I admitted. “It all builds into a portfolio, whether it’s under my real name or my pseudonym, and as I’ve been told I have some talent [!], that might be useful in terms of securing some ‘proper’, paid writing jobs. I’m not delusional about it – I’m never going to make a fortune out of the pursuit, nor do I think it’s a viable full-time job – but you never know; it could be a potential supplementary income.”

“Beyond that? Any other things you’re doing for you?” he queried. Humph. I was ever so slightly miffed – I had that thought the whole writing thing was really rather good!

When I didn’t immediately answer he spoke for me, saying, “well, at least you’re not self-harming. That’s a good thing not to be doing for yourself.”

I shrugged non-committally. I wasn’t self-harming at the time, but even now I just can’t view it with the same horror that he seems to.

He decided to pursue a different vein. “Have we got the balance right? You know, discussing your abusive experiences but also including the whole mental health and psychosis stuff.”

I responded, truthfully, in the affirmative. “I see why we need to focus on the former at times, obviously,” I opined, “but the two aren’t mutually exclusive, are they? My mental health issues have more origins than just those of the abuse, and I think it’s helpful to examine those as well. In terms specifically of psychotic presentations, well – those can’t go unaddressed, can they? So yeah, the balance is good.”

Paul nodded, but went on to say that “when we’re touching on the abuse and feelings related to that, there’s lots of you ‘keeping a lid’ on everything. You have a lot of uncapped pain there, that we’ve only really started to get close to.”

He mentioned the concept of ego-splitting again (ie. the more functional me versus the pained, dissociated mess that Aurora is and that I, myself, often am too), and stated that when dealing with the dissociated part, we had had to tread very carefully during our work together. He seemed to be wondering if he’d pushed too hard at times, or if he hadn’t pushed enough at others. Personally, I think he judged each incidence of this really very well.

He went on to say that he’d experienced the full force of repressed rage projected onto him by other clients – never me – and that it was “pretty horrendous” (though ultimately beneficial). He wondered aloud why I’d never done that; was it to protect myself – or was it to protect others?

The latter is, by and large, the reality. Now, this is an odd one. I have a bolshy, extremely stubborn streak in me when I’m being treated unreasonably, viz the Health Trust saga – but by and large, anger and I are not intimate acquaintances. It lies dormant within me, I know, but it’s only rarely expressed in its rawest form. I will almost never get properly angry without an obvious, here-and-now reason, such as how the Trust failed me, or being falsely charged for something, whatever. Of course, Paul would argue that I have every right to be angry in terms of that to which Paedo subjected me. Rationally, of course, this is a perfectly reasonable position to hold, but I can’t seem to agree. That was 20 fucking years ago, you know? I am calm and collected and calculated. I am zen. *practices mindfulness*

…..

Nah, you guessed it – mindfulness is one thing that could actually wake that hibernating anger, so it can get away to fuck. Anyway, yeah; I rarely feel that visceral sort of fury, and even when I do, I actively attempt to suppress it for, in the main, the sake of those around me. I pointed out to Paul that the (very few) people with whom I deal in everyday life have nothing to do with Paedo’s sexual fascination with little people – so why on Earth would I want to subject them to anything even vaguely relating to it? Besides. I simply don’t feel anything other than a sneering disdain for the man. Bizarre and substantially fucked up? Probably. But true, despite it all. In my conscious mind at least, it just isn’t there.

What I did admit to, though, was my penchant for being very easily irritated. For instance, I drop a pen. I yell expletives at the poor inanimate thing, then kick it across the room in a fit of pathetically infantile pique (oh and then I feel guilty for being so irrationally nasty, catalysing me into – yeah, wait for this one, folks – apologising to the pen. Sane? No. I shouldn’t imagine so).

“Perhaps,” I psycho-babbly posited, “what should come out as a kind of righteous anger towards my uncle instead reveals itself as acute but in-the-moment strong annoyance at very silly little things. I mean, I’d never thought of that potential connection before, but I can see that in context it might be some sort of projection of more profound issues.”

I paused, then decreed that my previous assertions had been “nothing more than pseudo-psychological straw-clutching” because “everyone gets outrageously pissed off when they drop a pen, don’t they?” Well, readers – don’t they? You know it’s true. You know!

This post has (unsurprisingly) got out of hand. It shall ergo contineth on the morrow (or rather, later on, given that this is after midnight, but let’s not quibble over niceties). Nighty night, loveliest people! x

Continued here.

Semantics, Psychosis and Severance – Paul: Week 24

As any of you who have followed my accounts of my sessions with Paul will know, I have a lot of time for the man. I both like and respect him. However, there are a few criticisms that could be justifiably levied in his direction:

  • He almost always reads something into everything. I appreciate Dr Freud’s input into therapeutic theory and practice, but some stuff – just some – is just that: stuff.
  • He is a vehement opponent of the medical model of mental illness (presumably the term ‘mental illness’ would in itself offend him. I’d actually prepared a post ages ago, in which I confoundedly asked why this description is so offensive to some people – I just don’t get it. But I’ve gone and lost my bloody notebook, so that’ll have to wait. Well done, Pan!).
  • He keeps blaming people around me for not ‘noticing’ my abuse. Yeah, because it’s fucking standard for each family in the entire universe to be intimately acquainted with the warning signs, isn’t it?
  • His constant use of the phrase, that little girl. So saying that I have a mental illness offends Paul? Well, saying that I have a ‘little girl’ inside me offends me.

I think the palpable irritation of the foregoing probably sets the tone of this session quite well. Indeed, it makes me think that perhaps I was being slightly disingenuous in recently so vocally applauding Paul in comparison to C (though, that said, I stand by my assertion that the former has been more help to me than the latter – I spent many sessions in C’s company wanting to punch him, and only a few such occasions arose with Paul). At any rate, from the offset in this appointment, he irritated the hell out of me. Also, although towards the end there was finally some useful work being done, I felt a bit out of it for most of the session (I had been up to 3am the previous night trying to stop a good friend of mine from killing herself, and had not slept for ages after retiring either) and the whole thing felt a bit disjointed. So, I’m going to go through it in bullet points. Of course, my version of bullet points is everyone else’s version of a protracted essay with a few random, indented dots thrown in for no clear reason, but what else would you have come to expect? Beware of triggers for self-harm and child sex abuse, though the latter is not especially graphic.

  • We discussed our relationship briefly at the start of the session. He proffered the view that one thing that had not really occurred during our time together was any trace of him trying to “rescue me”. Apparently, he’d seen some “scary stuff”, mainly in relation to my erstwhile tendencies towards self-harm (‘normal’ cutting did not, I think, faze him especially. However, my particular modus operandi was often to carve words into my flesh or, latterly, to stab myself with a scalpel. I’m actually shrugging as I type this – such actions really are no big deal to me. They must be to him, though). I opined that his reactions were “refreshing”: C, for example, would often have seemed perplexed by and disdainful of my self-injurious behaviour; A would groan every day it happened; Mum was abjectly horrified. Paul’s dislike of the activity was certainly evident, to be fair, but he never tried to actively stop me from engaging in it, knowing that destructive as it was, it was an important coping mechanism for me at the time. Anyhow, as I noted to him on this occasion, I hadn’t self-harmed for ages. Medication was partly to blame – not that I dared to tell him that – but, to his credit, so I think was therapy.
  • You may recall that around the time of our holiday, A and I had been invited to ScumFan McFaul’s 21st birthday bash. I’d had this out with Paul before – A and I were making excuses to avoid the event, whereas Paul’s stroke-of-genius solution was to say, “well, I don’t want to go because [Paedo] used to rape me all the time.” He reiterated this point in this meeting, which annoyed me intensely. The McFauls, for the most part, and my mother, definitely, do not deserve to have their lives ruined by this information. Does no one give a shit about altruistic utilitarianism any more?!
  • I added, in relation to same, that even if I did confess, that no one would believe me anyway (which is probably true). They’d probably think I was making it all up for attention or something, but the most flattering scenario would be if they held the view that my beliefs and recollections pertaining to Paedo were psychotically inspired. “In other words,” as I said to Paul, “they’d think the mental illness causes the idea of abuse rather than the abuse causing [in part, I’d stress, not in its entirety – not that Paul would agree with that] the mental illness.”
  • He said that in his view I didn’t have mental health problems. Apparently, insanity is where nothing makes sense. He claims that everything I experience and do makes complete sense when considered in context. That’s all very well – I do concur to a large degree – but Paul is a trained psychotherapist, and I am a mentalist that has become very well informed about all the issues surrounding my conditions. The McFauls are laypersons; they aren’t going to know any of the psychosocial connections at play here. If someone tried to explain it to most of them (Suzanne and StudentMcF possibly excepted), it would rush right over their heads and vanish like Willow the Wisp. In any case, “coping mechanisms” versus “mental health problems” is a purely semantic debate, to my mind. You could call it Bouncy Fluffy Bunniness and the nett effects would be identical, so why do the fucking words matter so much to him?
  • Paul wondered why I’d never demonstrated any overt psychosis in session with him (query: why is it OK to use the word ‘psychosis’, but both ‘mental health problems’ and ‘mental illness’ are teh sux0rz?). He was distinctly unimpressed when I made a reference to Seroquel, which further irritated me. Regardless of what he thinks, I think Seroquel has helped me immensely – and surely, when it comes to one’s health concerns, one’s own observations are of pivotal importance? Anyway, he instead ventured that perhaps that particular brand of mentalism hadn’t been “needed” in the room with him. Was it that I was safe there, he mused? I was willing to entertain that notion, but added that although I felt safe with him, that I didn’t necessarily feel ‘safe’ psychologically. A lot of the work had been challenging and extremely intense. He agreed, then said that, based on my previous experiences, that perhaps I unconsciously feared that I would be judged.
  • This led to a conversation around my mother and her refusal to believe my claims about Paedo, when I tried to bring them up at the ages of 14 and 17 (or thereabouts). I defended her, however, on the grounds that she was engaging in “a quintessential pattern of psychological avoidance.” Paul sighed, and asked me for the non-intellectualised version, and I (rather reluctantly, because I felt my first answer had been fine) declared that I was perhaps insulted. My mother had, on the second occasion I think, accused me of making up my allegations of rape because I didn’t want to go to Hotel California. (Of course I didn’t want to go to Hotel California – rape was why!). I was insulted because I find women who make up stories of rape and/or domestic violence to be abhorrent individuals; not only do they dilute the genuine pain and trustworthiness of actual victims, they also make (generally) men look worse than the poor sods really are. I don’t want to be seen by anyone, least of all my fucking mother, as such a person.
  • Apparently Paul detected anger in my voice, which surprised me as I had deliberately feigned nonchalance. The problem is that if I express – or even if I just am – anger/angry with my mother, then she will die and it will be my fault. I said so to him, then launched an invective against myself for thinking and feeling something so patently fantastical. He leapt to my defence, saying that this was another thing that made sense in context – apparently, because I became the vehicle for so many heinous things, I (to my subconscious self) became a walking nuclear reactor, capable of bringing great evil and destruction to all. A reasonably fair assessment, to give him his dues.
  • At one point, for some reason (I think I must have been defending my mother again), there arose a comparison between my father, V, and Paedo. V was a complete twat, and everyone knows/knew it (apart from Aunt of Evil and her cunts). Paedo, ostensibly, is a nice enough old bloke (though in my view he’s a supremely boring imbecile, but when I have said similar to my mother she accuses me of intellectual snobbery, which I suppose is a reasonably fair charge). I exemplified the surface differences by stating that Paedo had never knocked seven bells out of Maisie. Then, to my eternal disgust, I muttered, “though I don’t know how he hasn’t, I’d have gone for her countless times.” Unsurprisingly this led to more self-castigation. Naturally, he defended me again, asking why every caustic comment I made had to be retracted. I responded by saying that I had just condoned domestic violence, which was repulsive. Apparently not, though – the issue of my taking the remark back was “much more complex” and I was using a reference to domestic violence as “an excuse” to “withdraw at the first sign of feeling”. “So,” I mocked gaudily, “I’m brimming over with resentment about Maisie’s failure to protect me and that comes out in throwaway bitchy comments?” His response? “Yes. Exactly.” Whatever. What-the-fuck-ever, Paul.
  • He monologued about how bad the abuse had been and how Maisie had “stood by [Paedo]”, not exercising a due duty of care towards me (and, he through in as an addendum, neither had she acted out of the unconditional love she is for some reason meant to have felt for me). As I witheringly picked my nails, bored of this endless psychobabble, he asked me to see it from that [fucking fucking fucking] little girl‘s point of view. Children don’t analyse and rationalise, apparently (wrong. I may not have a clear, linear recollection of my childhood, but I do remember doing just that), so my reaction to the family’s non-reaction was purely visceral. For instance, “I’m in pain, waaah waaah waaah, please help me, waaah waaah waaah…oh, look you’re not helping me, waaah waaah waaah waaah waaah.”
  • The conversation meandered towards an incident in Fuerteventura. A and I had been sitting at this lovely beach bar, looking out over the bay and enjoying a cool beer. All these little kids were running around mad, splashing in the water or jumping about in that pointless, irritating way that only children do. Aloud, I randomly mused, “I wish I’d had a happy childhood.” After a second or two, I was completely aghast at this out-of-the-blue, out-of-character remark. A seemed – I don’t know, moved? – by it, and when it was duly relayed to Paul, he in turn pronounced it “very poignant”. I was reminded of another occasion in Fuerteventura when yet more children were running around on the beach. Some of them were naked. I am not joking, readers, but this horrified me. Part of me was so disturbed that she could barely look away, thus cementing my belief in that old theory of the compelling car crash; part of me then forced myself to look away, because I felt like a paedophilic voyeur even noticing these youngsters. He said, “most people have a happy ignorance about child sexuality, and therefore have no issues with child nakedness. Unfortunately, you’re not one of them.”
  • He said that I have a lot to grieve vis a vis my childhood and that in conducting my mourning, I turned everything upon myself. I was told that when cutting is not enough, I “degrade” myself. In response, I rearranged my features to reflect bewilderment. Degrade? “Yes,” said Paul. “You sometimes write words when you cut, degrading words like ‘whore’, ‘slut’, ‘bitch’ and so on. None of which you are.” I shrugged, reluctantly but truthfully stating that “they’re not normal terms applied to a child.”
  • Paul raised the subject of the photo of the baby. He proclaimed my reaction to it to be a “wonderful moment”, it having been a single image that cut through all my defence mechanisms and psychological barriers and yadda, blah, and meh. “I saw real sadness in you that day,” he said, “and moreover, you didn’t push it away. It’s hard to pin all that hate and blame on a baby, isn’t it?”
  • This was true. However, as I pointed out, pictures of myself as a five or six year old don’t only not have this effect, they have the opposite. Young Me leaves me nauseous.
  • Blah blah blah, twaddle and waffle for a bit.
  • Eventually he came back to the subject of words like ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ and remarked that those were Paedo’s words. Although as I said I don’t remember Paedo saying anything much at the time, I reflected that he wouldn’t have had to. Paul agreed, stating that his actions and attitudes spoke louder and intimated the same.
  • Ever defiant, I insisted that I still didn’t like the child, regardless of who actually proscribed her a whore. “Not liking her doesn’t mean I can’t absolve her of blame, though,” I added thoughtfully. And I don’t think it does either. He replied by stating that that was a good start, and that eventually, as he helped me build bridges between her (Aurora, let’s just say again) and me, I would “grow to” like her. (This is complete bollocks. I really, really don’t like children and, in fact, am generally rather scared of them. Of course, he thinks I don’t like children because I specifically hate Aurora and the legacy of madness she’s left me. I do not concur. I think that I don’t like children because I fucking don’t like children).
  • I disputed his assertion that I would like her, but not on the aforementioned grounds, valid as they are in my view. What I told him instead was that (as noted elsewhere) I don’t have a linear path of memories of my childhood. So, if I cannot access Aurora’s personality in the form of her thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences and so on, how can I ever get to know her? Without those she is, in effect, dead (occasions of which she tries to invade my mind notwithstanding). I am not her, even though I occupy a body into which she grew.
  • For what I’m pretty sure was the first time, Paul deflected the point away (C did this infuriatingly frequently, but familiarity breeds contempt, as the old adage goes: Paul doing it once irritated the shit out of me). Rather than respond specifically, he said that in demonising Aurora, I was “shooting the messenger”.
  • For some reason, the conversation turned to a very brief article I had published some months ago in a national periodical, in which I whined about how terrible NHS provision for psychotherapy can be. I happen to know that C reads said publication. That’s not why I published it, but I did take some satisfaction in knowing that he may well have read it. “It was basically ‘fuck you’ in 150 words,” I told Paul. “Isn’t that really bitchy?” He laughed, and said that “bitchy is good sometimes.” I went on to add that occasionally I allow myself some slack for bitchiness in this area – I mean, the NHS therapy thing was a ridiculous debacle for which I was not responsible. Paul nodded his agreement, but added that all too often I “take the slack back.” True enough.
  • He alluded to the fact that, as well as not showing psychosis in session (mentioned 23 miles back up the page), I also rarely demonstrated anger. This is curious in a way, because I frequently ranted and raved at C, which was sort of a back-handed compliment to him; it denoted total ease in his company. In that way, not being angry with Paul (or, at least, not demonstrating anger) could be construed as vaguely insulting. Not that I said any of that to him, of course, but in any case he wondered if I felt that he would not “accept” my anger. I don’t know; I have never got beyond irritated with him (as I did in this session at points), so it’s hard to say. But why can’t (or won’t) I express that irritability, then? I have simply never felt comfortable doing so, yet I otherwise feel contented in his presence and, as this blog has amply testified, feel that he has helped me a great deal. Anyhow, I made some comment about “being very well aware that I’m my father’s daughter” – by this I meant that I felt that I had to be careful with anger, just in case I ever went into a dangerously blind rage (though, I should note, this was and is not my expressed reasoning for not exhibiting anger in front of Paul). I exemplified by telling him about the events that precipitated this post, though I’m still not going to say what they were here. Paul examined the incident in question against some of my father’s behaviour, and all but dismissed my concerns. I am most assuredly not like my father in any way, in his stated view.
  • As the end of the session approached, he noted that the one following it would be our last together. He lamented that fact because he felt that whilst we had achieved quite a bit in six-ish months, that realistically we had only begun to start scratching the surface of the tiresome iceberg that is my so-called trauma. “In the last few sessions especially,” he said, “we’ve covered a lot of very deep stuff. It’s frustrating to have to end it here.” I agreed that the timing was unfortunate, but brought up a point that NewVCB had made – that a break isn’t always a bad idea. Paul actually agreed with this, which is probably the first and last time that his opinion and that of a consultant psychiatrist will ever meet (and hark! The Earth wasn’t subsumed by the sun, and the galaxy wasn’t pulled into a super-massive black hole by this unlikely confluence, once-every-parsec of events!). Nevertheless, despite my insistence on the issue in the previous session, he asked me if I felt “abandoned.” I said ‘no’, citing the upfront-ness of Nexus on how short-term their therapy had to be. With the NHS, there had been – as far as I was concerned – an implicit understanding that my therapy would be relatively ongoing, at least until such times as I was socially functional. It was only after an attachment had been allowed to be formed that I was advised that that would not be the case. So, I told Paul, in comparison – and given the charity’s very reasonable issues of resource limitations – I felt quite OK about the ending. The fact that I could eventually go back gave me a further buoyancy about the whole thing. “I know we can’t start exactly as we’ll have left off,” I continued, “but at least we can dispense with the whole ‘getting to know each other’ formalities, and just get to work.” He agreed: he remarked that the time between the stints of therapy would be useful for me to consolidate the work we’d already done, and that I’d come back to the process with an increased understanding of myself, Aurora and ‘our’ situation.

As you know, I am in fact going back soon. I really don’t know to what extent I have reflected on everything we did before – not in a discretely contained gap-in-therapy sort of way, at any rate. But I know that I have a much greater awareness and understanding of myself through the therapy as a whole, and I’m still hopeful that I can build on that in the weeks and months yet to come.

Pedagogical Lust and False Abandonment – Paul: Week 23, Part II

This post is continued from here. Please be aware of possible triggers for child sex abuse and related issues.

So, Paul had inadvertently reminded me of a recurring dream that I’ve had frequently throughout this year. Oddly, I haven’t had it much since I actually had this discussion with him, so maybe thrashing it out a bit helped aid it on its merry way. Whatever the case, I found its recurrence to be really strange – as I noted in my first post on this session, although I’ve always dreamt a lot, I have not been particularly partial to recurring dreams – and the subject matter of this one had perplexed me. I could understand if I’d started having frequent dreams about Paedo or something, but I didn’t. No, this dream was about Mike – my favourite teacher at school.

It basically ran thus. I had missed pretty much an entire year at school, yet rather than re-sit the year as would be sensible, I went back in May – having had absolutely no tuition in my chosen subjects whatsoever – to sit my exams, due to be at the end of that month and then into June. The sense of dread was so palpable I can still feel it; I knew there was no way I could pass, and I was dreadfully worried about turning up to Mike’s class, not having seen him for months. There was a sense of hideously foreboding terror as I walked to his room; not only was I going to fail, I was going to let him down by doing so and, furthermore, I already had let him down simply for not being there.

As far as I can recall, as far as the dream went, I never actually did get to Mike’s room nor sit the exams. It was about the build-up to doing so, and my worry about how I was going to try to turn things completely around within a matter of mere days. I remember my sense that I would need an utter fuckload of extra time from Mike, and how unreasonable it was of me to ask that of him, given my lack of responsibility in the situation. The dreams were so vivid that I could almost believe that I’d be transported back in time to an alternative world in which my 17/18 year-old self resided. Some thinking in theoretical physics posits that 11 dimensions (and therefore alternative universes) are at least a possibility, plus the recent results at Cern may, just may, eventually cause us to rethink the notion of time travel. If any of this is proven in my lifetime, I could well be convinced that these experiences, so compellingly real as they were, were not actually dreams.

Anyway, I am mad enough without trying to bring the weird world of science fiction into this blog. The point is the dreams felt as real as sitting here right now does, and I would wake up screaming to myself, “fuck, fuck, fuck, what am I going to do?” for 10, maybe more, minutes, before I realised that it had all been, yet again, a dream – and that I actually left school over nine years ago.

I shrugged at Paul. “What the hell is that about? A deep-seated fear of failure?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so – at least, not primarily. You were very fond of this teacher. Was that mutual?”

“Yes,” I answered. “It was mutual to the point that the others in the class regarded me as something of a teacher’s pet.”

“It’s about the relationship, then, isn’t it?” he opined. “I feel a sense that there’s something about ‘using’ this man to get him to do something he shouldn’t – in this case, provide hours and hours of catch-up time to you, at the expense of his own time and possibly that of others. I would even say, in that regard, that there’s maybe something in there about you taking on the role of an ‘abuser’.”

I shot him a puzzled glance. “Would it not be simpler just to think of it as some ‘father figure’ bullshit?”

“I’m sure that’s part of it,” he admitted, “but I’m struck by the issues of boundaries in your description of the dreams. Dare I say…[he cleared his throat embarrassingly]…was there some sort of sexual tension between you and [Mike]?”

I felt the colour drain from my face – partly because I felt appalled at the idea of any implied accusations of sexual misconduct against Mike, who was usually* always a paragon of virtue – but more because Paul had just hit the nail on the fucking head.

[* Mike was a bastion of black and sick humour, which was one of the reasons I liked him so much. I remember a couple of occasions on which, to my amused delight, he made statements aimed at me that could have been considered what I will politely term ‘innuendo’. One such occasion was so blatant that the girl sitting next to me turned to me, laughing in school-girl, goggle-eyed amazement, and suggested he was flirting with me. I feigned nonchalance. How could he not flirt with me, I joked, smiling devilishly back at her. I look back on that memory with a lot of fondness, but I must make clear that he would never, ever, ever, not in a hundred-million years, have acted upon any frisson between us. He was a good man, an honourable man. He just happened to have a wicked sense of humour.]

“Quite probably,” I murmured quietly, avoiding his gaze.

“Perhaps there was a sexual drive there, designed to encourage him to brake boundaries,” Paul suggested.

“That’s horrible!” I spat. I then promptly followed my outburst up with a resigned, “it’s horrible because it’s true.”

“But put it in context,” he said, a willed determination present in his voice.

“Fuck it, Paul – context or no context, that’s as manipulative as it gets.”

“But you were manipulated, then accused [by Paedo, whether overtly or otherwise] of being the manipulator.”

“So? It doesn’t give me carte blanche to go around manipulating others later in my life.” I laughed, but it was a hollow, despairing sound. “I can see this fucking neon sign flashing above my head screaming “BORDERLINE“, warning everyone away from me.” (Though as I noted I can no longer be diagnosed with that most iniquitous of ailments. “Not that it matters, though,” I added, “because as soon as it’s on file, it stays on file.”).

He looked at me sympathetically, but gestured for me to continue.

“Well. I probably did use my relationship with Mike to obtain certain…liberties. But, by the same token, I worked my fucking arse off for him. I worked very, very hard – by parsecs more than the others in the class [this is true]. So in that sense at least, he was…I don’t know, rewarded?”

“Mmm,” Paul agreed. “You see, in the real world, you’re not manipulative. The relationship was co-operative: he rewarded you, you rewarded him. It’s only when you get into the realms of the unconscious – such as dreams – that you become a manipulator, an abuser. It directly sums up your life, doesn’t it? In the real world, you were a monstrously abused child, devoid of any responsibility for the disgusting acts you suffered. But you were taught to absorb [Paedo’s] culpability, so you’ve always subconsciously believed you were to blame for pretty much anything that could have been construed as ‘bad’ in your life. Such thinking then comes out in things like these dreams, where your mind tries to convince itself that you are to blame, that you are nothing but a manipulative, slatternly, abusive bitch. And it just isn’t true.”

I sat in silence, strangely perturbed by his impassioned soliloquy of Pandora-defence.

In the absence of a response from me, Paul decided to continue. “I have this image of you as a young girl – an adolescent – standing beside this teacher thinking, ‘I could ruin this man’s life. I could seduce him and make him into a monster’.”

I had never thought of it like that. I didn’t not consider the seduction element, as discussed on the post I’d previously written on Mike, but to me it was just some silly teenage crush. Loads of school children have ‘things’ for their teachers, for fuck’s sake.

Uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was taking, I tried to deflect it slightly.

“When I was about 14, I used to follow him around like a puppy. I know it irritated him.”

“And what happened as you got older?”

I went to say that I didn’t follow him around like a puppy in my later years at school, but stopped short of doing so. It’s true – I didn’t do so. But when I thought about it, I didn’t do so because I didn’t have to. When I was in sixth form, I saw Mike for usually at least an hour a day anyhow. I also had another class two doors up from his room, so would frequently run into him after it was over and I had a free period, or was on lunch, or whatever. Quite often I’d end up in his room blathering to him about something or other for fairly extended periods of time – and at this stage, he distinctly wasn’t irritated by my presence. He would engage me in discourse about politics, existentialism, journalism, religion – all manner of social issues. Occasionally we’d even talk (shock! Horror!) about those weirdest of things that were our actual lives. Just as I enjoyed his company, he enjoyed mine.

“As you grew older, you grew more seductive,” Paul said in response to this, tilting his head in what I thought was a deliberately provocative manner. Not that he needed to be provocative in his mannerisms, because I felt that the statement itself was loaded enough.

“As I grew older,” I challenged through gritted teeth, “I became more intellectually engaging. Does it have to have to have anything to do with sex?! Yeah, there may have been a frisson. MAY. He would never have acted upon it, however. Never.”

“Of course not,” he acknowledged. “I’m just looking at the possible hidden dynamics of the relationship.”

As I said, it was a loaded hypothesis – but perhaps not an entirely unconsidered one. I heard a cynical laugh emanate from somewhere within my body. “It’s fucked,” I told him, “but it’s a slightly more orthodox version of sexuality than that to which I’d earlier been subjected.”

“In a way, but what is so troubling about it is not that you had a romantic interest in your teacher, or even that he may at some hypothetical level have reciprocated that. You’re walking around your school at the age of 14 with your interest in this man. For you, it wasn’t some typical school-girl crush; you had full knowledge of what you were capable of doing. It’s not this pubescent image of a little kiss, holding hands, blah blah. You knew where to put this, how to do that. You knew how to have sex, and you knew you could do with him it if presented with the opportunity, because, of course, you’d done it before.”

I wondered if Paul was not reading too much into this. Don’t all teenagers think about sex, readers? Don’t they know the mechanics of intercourse? I’m seriously asking. I don’t see any of that as being abnormal.

Indeed, A and I discussed this last weekend. A thinks Paul’s suppositions are utter bollocks – ie., he thinks – yes, teenagers fucking do think about sex, and its specific mechanics. It is possible that A and I are both perverted sexual deviants, I suppose, but I have yet to see meaningful evidence of such an idea.

So, I asked Paul was sexual ideation not a common teenage mental passtime. “Not with the refinement of knowledge that you had,” he insisted.

“Vile, isn’t it?” he went on, staring into space in a way that I can only describe as wistfully non-wistful (yep, I’m sure that epically successful summary conjures up a clear and informative image of his expression in your head). “So vile that you were so different at 14 – but not just at 14. At five. How many five year old girls even know what a penis looks like?”

Well, I’m hardly some socio-sexual research analyst so am therefore unqualified to speculate on the point, but my first instinctive, inner reaction had been, “all of them.” I laughed nervously at the ridiculousness of the notion. “I suppose that shows you the stoicism that after a while comes to permeate this…this kind of thing.”

He nodded. “And, to me, that’s largely where the trauma of the abuse comes in. The physical stuff is horrid, but it heals. If the abuse hadn’t become normalised for you, if you’d somehow been protected from it continuing, then much of the psychological damage that resulted from it all may not have developed.”

I sighed deeply. “You see, I can tell myself that it’s all fiiiine, because after all, it’s only M√ľnchhausen Syndrome, False Memory Syndrome or bare-faced, over-imaginative lies. But then I’m told that positions I deemed entirely appropriate for all young people to hold are in fact uncommon, and I suppose if that’s true then it drives the whole thing home – it is entirely believable, probably because it’s true.”

“Yes,” Paul replied. “It’s easier to think you’re just mad, isn’t it?”

But I am mad. Why is so impossible for him to accept that one can be both mad and an abuse victim?

Rather than confront him with that, though, I merely stated that should my history with Paedo ‘come out’ to the entire world, that that is certainly how the entire world would see me. Few people believe that Paedo is even remotely capable of anything even coming close to what he really is capable of, and since I’m mental anyway, it would be conveniently explained away by my alleged delusional thinking or some such. In that way at least, Paul is right.

He smiled amiably. “Well, at least one person believes you!”

“That’s a good start.”

For some reason, the discussion moved back to Christine, and how I don’t talk in any detail to her about the abuse. To my mind, this is entirely appropriate; she’s there to support me in terms of my everyday living, so far as I can tell. There is no reason to dredge up reams and reams of long-past bollocks when that is what Paul is meant to help me with.

He, though, wondered if she and NewVCB “shy away” from the subject. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but to the best of my knowledge, qualified as they both are, they are not trained psychotherapists.

“Still, though,” I ventured, “does it somehow offend them or scare them? If so, why? I mean, it was me that had to live through it!”

I paused, reflected on the comment, then felt like the bitch to rule all bitches. “God, that was a dreadful thing to say,” I moaned. “I actually really like them both, and do believe they want to help me.”

“But it isn’t about them,” Paul insisted. “There’s a part of you that carries what happened with her at all times [fucking Aurora], and it’s that part speaking: you’re rightfully pissed off, and sometimes that just comes out. I don’t think you’re angry with anyone specific – except, perhaps, for the obvious.”

He paused dramatically for a second, wearing a thoughtfully perturbed expression. Just as I was about to ask him what was wrong, he continued, “you know, when you stutter and stammer over words in here, I can’t help but see these hideous images of you choking on him.”

This shocked me to my core. Does he really see that?! What a truly terrible thing for him to experience indeed. What a complete fucking cunt I must be for even allowing such evil into his head. I said so, adding that I didn’t understand how trauma therapists could do their job without going off their heads themselves.

“I know there’s supervision and whatnot, but it must be at best challenging to have to listen to – to have to see – this kind of stuff all day long.”

He made a gesture dismissing my concern. “I think that what you said about having to live through it rings true – I didn’t have to do that, did I? [Well, I don’t know. Maybe you did, and you wanted to help others in this predicament? I don’t exactly know your life story]. If I can’t hold some of the toxicity, what chance do you have?!”

He said, “look, Pandora. I don’t get my fingers burnt in these situations. Yeah, it’s fucking nasty, but I don’t. I hope that in that way the toxicity of this can be somehow contained for you.”

‘Contained’. My favourite fucking word. “I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 14!” I exclaimed, hopeless and incredulous all at once. Paul me regarded me with a sympathetic but nonetheless searching expression.

“FUCK!” I eventually screamed into the air, at a random, ethereal, non-existent persona. “FUCK!”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he enquired as to what exactly I was shouting at.

“Just….FUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK!”

Both of his eyebrows quivered minutely, but my God – he was clever and subtle about it. He composed himself more quickly than anyone else that I have ever seen in a similarly ridiculous siutation. In those few minuscule seconds, he diffused my sudden and quite frankly inexplicable ire, and I appreciated this fallacious, yet remarkably calming, tolerance, however bogus it may have been.

“It’s interesting,” I murmured, affecting indifference.

Paul tilted his head. “Tell me how,” he coaxed.

“I’ve spent – what? 10, 12 years? thinking that therapy was a right load of old bollocks. But now, I’ve met you – and things have changed. It does work. I feel better – or, at least, I feel that I’m worthy of being understood. Why is that? Why – how – does therapy actually work?!”

[I deliberately resisted the urge to tread into neuro-psychiatric territory at this juncture. Paul is an anti-psychiatry type, and sometimes I feel too old and decrepit (the fact that I’m only fucking 28 notwithstanding!) to try and defend a position that contradicts that of others. Previous discussions about Paul should exemplify this well.]

He shrugged with amusement. “If you find out,” he smiled, “will you please let me know?!”

I returned the smile, but he must have seen something regretful in my facial expression. “OK,” he started, after several minutes of study of my rather forlorn face. “There’s more for you to say here. Cough up.”

“This therapy is ending soon,” I said, again with feigned nonchalance.

“Yes,” he said, expressionlessly.

“Do you think that I think you’re abandoning me?” I queried, disgusted at the borderline implications of the question.

“Do you?” he batted back – to my considerable annoyance. Why is it so bloody hard for people to answer a simple sodding question?!

“No,” I declared definitively. “However, plenty of others appear to hold that view.”

He asked me what I meant, and I explained that both Christine and NewVCB had postulated the premise that because the therapy at Nexus was time-limited, that I would going to feel “abandoned” and “rejected” when the relationship between Paul and I was no more.

“I don’t,” I pressed. “I truly don’t feel that. My issue with short-term therapy is that two decades of mental illness cannot be reversed in six months. It’s a rational, pragmatic objection – not some borderline freakery, like seems to be generally assumed.”

“I’ve said to you before,” Paul began, “that in an ideal world we’d seen each other for at least two years.”

“I know. But you’ve always been so straight-up about the time-frame that we are afforded here, and thanks to your candour, I’ve been able to accept that. But that bloody word ‘borderline’ denotes to all and fucking sundry that any rational objection I have must be related to an abandonment complex.”

Paul was about to respond, but I felt I’d overstepped the mark a little. Yes, NewVCB and Christine were concerned about my feeling “abandoned”, obviously a central tenet of the borderline personality. However, in fairness to both of them, the key word here was “concerned”. They cared; they didn’t, and don’t, condemn.

Nevertheless. “It’s not about abandonment,” I complained. [The lady doth protest too much? I don’t think so, but I’m sure there are those that do.]

“Of course not,” Paul responded, perhaps too appeasingly. “Throughout your life, you’ve been subjected to a string of dysfunctional attachments. Here, in this room, there is, I hope, an attachment – but of a different kind. It’s secure and non-abusive. You’re entirely accepted here. Yes, you’re leaving in a few weeks – but, I hope, you’re going to take that security with you. I’m here in the background; the experience of our relationship is still there.”

He paused, then – more deliberately than I might have liked – added that all relationships come to an end. “It’s about how it’s handled,” he said.

“Of course,” I nodded, in all sincerity. I thought back to the mess that was the conclusion of my time with C, and chuckled cynically. “I can’t help but think back to how poorly this was managed in my NHS therapy…but I know it shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be, that way.”

Paul made some caustic anti-NHS-therapy comment that I wish I could recall.

“It genuinely wasn’t my fault,” I commented, with a surprisingly defensive tone. “It wasn’t entirely the psychologist’s either – it was more to do with the appalling mess of bureaucracy to which most NHS workers are sadly subjected.

“My psychiatrist has actually been really supportive,” I added. “Yet she and my CPN are still concerned about this abandonment bullshit. I don’t get it. Just because my NHS therapy – as a result of the utter fuckwittery of the Trust – ended badly, it doesn’t mean that I am a demanding twat, and that all therapy I might ever have will go tits up.”

“What do you actually think about endings in therapeutic relationships?” Paul boldly asked me.

I could have given a 4,000 word response, because I’ve bloody read enough into the subject. Instead, I gave him a simple – but accurate – analysis: “no one is in therapy forever. That’s exactly the point of it: it’s not meant to be permanent. If endings are handled well, that exemplifies to me what one is meant to do with the relationship.”

Paul smiled. “You’re right on the mark, girl,” he said. “Right on the mark. Do you think we can achieve a satisfactory ending to this relationship together?”

“Of course I do,” I nodded. “Would I like it to be longer? Of course I would. But do I accept that it’s not going to be? Of course in duplicate. To me, it’s about how it’s handled, and how well it’s been handled. And I think it’s been, and is being, handled well.”

He smiled at me. “I previously suggested that after this is all over, that you come back again after a few months have elapsed, ” he said. “I do hope you do so, Pan. “But if you don’t, I have every faith in you anyway.”