Cancer, Crohn's and Crappy Days

Someone please write Saturday’s TWIM for me (thanks to the lovely sanabituranima for writing this week’s TNIM at short notice). My head is too mushed to even think about This Week in Mentalists at the minute – it’s not just that I can’t face writing it myself; even approaching potential authors is a task pathetically beyond me right now. So please volunteer. Ta.

Firstly, may I refer you to the rant at the start of this post. I had written up a shitload of this entry, then went to look for some links to add into it, only to return to find that the WordPress iPad application had crashed in the interim. Granted, I should have learnt my fucking lesson the last time this happened and saved the thing frequently – but really. What is it with the device that hates my blogging self so? FUCK YOU, STUPID APPS.

With that out of the way…OK. Now. Me. Not dead. Well, not dead in the biological sense, but certainly without any form of the life-emitting spirit that I believe less cunty individuals refer to as the ‘soul’ (an amorphous concept to my mind, but then nothing much makes sense to me). Writing is not something to come easily to me right now, so Maisie’s funeral saga will have to continue to wait. Thank fuck I have no professional deadlines at the minute. So, in brief…

Monday

My mother had an appointment at the cuntspital where Maisie drew her last breaths. She had been recalled, rather urgently I’d add, to the dump after a recent mammogram, the implicit suggestion being that something untoward had been found.

Naturally, as if I have not been mental enough over the last week or two, this sent me completely round the bend with worry. I lay awake all night on Sunday night/Monday morning dilemminating about it, wondering what I could possibly do to maintain even the vaguest semblance of sanity – possibly of life – if Mum had cancer and died.

This panicked frenzy of morbid thoughts was not aided by something that I heard about over the weekend. About 10 days ago (from today) one of Mum’s closest friends, Lucy, had been taken into (the same) hospital after being unable to breathe. Her breathlessness was caused by a large lump in her throat, which her genius GP – on several occasions – had perceived to be an “infection”, for which he kept throwing her anti-biotic scripts.

Upon her hospital admission, predictably enough, the lump was found to be cancerous.

Despite the GP’s incompetence, though, the medical staff thought that they’d probably got it in time. They stabilised her breathing through her neck, and undertook further biopsies on the lump to see whether they would favour chemo- or radiotherapy as treatment. There was no, “we’re sorry, but you only have x weeks/months”. Despite being unable to speak, Lucy was apparently in cheerful spirits, passing convivial notes of communication to her husband Andy and other assorted family members. This was on Wednesday or Thursday of last week.

My mother contacted me on Saturday to advise that Lucy had died in the early hours of Friday morning.

Another death. Thanks, 2012, you’re really loving everyone in the Pandorian plane, aren’t you? Now, in all honesty, I was never close to Lucy, and my mother and her had, in recent years, not been the good mates they once were – but overall, for quite a while, she’d probably have been Mum’s second best friend. So whilst I wasn’t upset for my own reasons, I was for those of my mother. First her sister, now her friend. Who fucking next?

And of course, Lucy’s passing only served to reinforce my concerns about my mother’s breast screening. I tried to rationalise it. I tried to weigh up statistics and likelihoods of x and y in my mind. I tried “positive thinking”. Unsurprisingly, none of this did anything whatsoever to assuage my concerns – if anything, it only worsened them.

After the appointment time had long elapsed, I voluntarily rang my mother. Yes. I chose to use the phone; that was my level of concern. To my abject horror, she didn’t answer either her mobile nor her landline. I started catastrophising that she’d been admitted right away, due to the severity of whatever had been found.

As time passed with further no-replies, my apprehension turned into a full-blown mentalist panic. Should I ring the cuntspital? Should I go to it? Should I just kill myself now – why wait to hear that the fuckers accidentally killed her whilst she was in a scan or something?

Ridiculous, but real. When I finally saw her name jump up on my mobile, I was stunned and relieved (though still paranoid – “it’s one of the nurses or doctors using her phone to tell me that she’s dead”). As I answered it, however, I feigned nonchalance. My mother worries about me being worried.

This is what happened, as I reported on Twitter:

Mum has a mass in her left breast, spotted from a comparison of her recent mammogram and the one prior to it. They performed three more mammograms and an ultrasound. Apparently the mass spread out under pressure – which they claim it probably would not have done were it malignant – and the ultrasound was clear. So they are “happy enough”. It’s a relief…”

Yay! Great news! Surely that was the end to my panicked worry?

Not quite:

It’s a relief, but the tests were at the shithole hospital where Maisie and half the rest of the country die(d), so I can’t settle despite them giving what Mum described as “the all clear”. Paranoia, I know. Should just be grateful and relieved. I am, obviously, but catastrophising was/is always my default setting. Just hope that she really is OK.

I mean, there was a mass. Is an ultrasound and a mammogram sufficient to tell what that mass’s true nature is? I’m no oncologist – maybe it is. But the fact that they didn’t give her a biopsy or any such tests keeps my nervousness from abating entirely.

When I logged off from Twitter, I was suddenly overcome with a great sadness, as well as the severe depression and anxiety I’d already been experiencing. And I started to fucking cry again, sitting alone on my sofa. Pathetic. But then I remembered that the cameras were there and I dried the fuck out of my eyes and sat there pretending to be normal. Which was a fail, it seems, because A was struck by how palpably black the house felt when he got home from work that evening.

Tuesday

Up early to get Srto Gato to the vets for his neutering operation. Went back to bed upon return to the house and spent most of the day there. Dozed in a haze of non-sleep drowsiness for a bit, spent most of the time staring at the wall as the seconds languorously ticked by. Vets sent a message about 2pm to tell me to collect the cat about 5pm. Blocked number then called, but naturally enough I ignored it. For once, though, the caller left a voice message.

Turned out that, in the wake of our re-assessment sessions, it was Paul offering me “ongoing counselling” from Tuesday 28th February. He asked me to call the office to confirm whether or not this was suitable. I duly contacted Nice Lady That Works for Nexus and advised that this was fine.

But it’s not fine. I mean, I am glad to be going back – ultimately, psychotherapy with Paul was an enriching and helpful experience – but I’m dreading it too. Through no fault of his, working with him fucked me up on several occasions in the past. It’s the inevitable, gruesome nature of trauma therapy. And whilst it is, in the long-term, important that all the trauma and related issues are thrashed out, in the short-term it makes for a very difficult mindset. So. I don’t mind admitting it for once. I’m scared.

Went to get the cat, and forced myself to stop at the shop. Bought pancake ingredients and made A and myself two batches that evening. I’ve no idea how I managed to fight teh m3nt@Lz for long enough to be able to have done this, but whatever the case, I’m glad of it, and count my pancake-making as a win.

Wednesday

Mother phones. “Rhona McFaul is in hospital,” she tells me. “They’re doing her operation tomorrow.”

I mentioned briefly towards the end of this post that Rhona was being admitted, and that her husband was worried that said admission would be to the cuntspital where Maisie died. Unfortunately, that is exactly where she ended up.

Worry about Rhona. She is one of the McFauls that I like. The operation – to help relieve her very severe form of Crohn’s disease – is major. They were cutting out her entire large bowel, sewing up her rectum and attaching a colostomy bag to her stomach. Poor cow.

Go to mother’s house, as per weekly convention. Manage to maintain an utterly deceitful façade of pseudo-sanity to stop mother worrying about me. Mother asks if I will go with her to cuntspital to see Rhona before she is taken away to the gas chambers goes through the operation on Thursday morning. Agree.

Go to cuntspital. Wave after depressing wave of oppression and misery emanates from every atom of its building. Force self to carry on to Rhona’s ward. Ward is even worse.

Rhona and family – just her, her husband and their two children – are in surprisingly cheerful form. Rhona is having a blood transfusion and being forced to take ridiculously strong and foul tasting laxatives. Do not envy her one bit.

Why am I writing this in the present tense? This happened on Wednesday. This is Friday.

So, I didn’t envy Rhona at all, but was encouraged by the positivity she seemed to be demonstrating. We didn’t stay with them that long – it was only right to let her have her last time before the thing with her immediate family – but wished her well and told her daughter, Student, to keep in touch the next day to advise on how the operation had gone.

We returned to my mother’s, and I continued to exhaust myself with the maintenance of my “sane” façade until bedtime.

Thursday

At 3.30am I decided that I was evil and should ergo ingest about 60 Zopiclone. This was a moment of sheer idiocy, as I know full well that that sort of Zopiclone OD is unlikely to be fatal (to me, that is. I am not for one second suggesting that it is in any way not dangerous for others). Got up to get Zopiclone, to find that I only had three of the fucking little shits. It didn’t seem worth it, so I took one for sleeping purposes and abandoned my plans.

The rest of the day was uneventful, except for my mother’s worry at several points about not having heard from Student. When we eventually did learn how things had gone – quite late in the day, perhaps about 4pm – it turned out that the delay had been caused by Rhona being in severe pain straight after the procedure, meaning that she had to have an epidural and stay in the recovery ward for much longer than expected. Other than that, though, the operation apparently went well and there were no complications.

That didn’t stop my mother’s neuroticism, however – yes, I know, I know, I’m one to talk – instead, her need to worry fixated upon me instead.

“You know, Rhona might not have had to have such a huge operation if something had been done about her Crohn’s a lot earlier,” she said, reasonably enough.

“I know,” I replied, “it’s a fucking disgrace.”

“Yes,” Mum said, in that expectant tone she uses when there’s something more she wants to say, but she’s unsure as to whether or not she should actually say it.

I waited.

“You should really go back to Lovely GP,” she complained eventually. I asked why.

“Your IBS has gotten ridiculous. You can barely keep anything even down, and when you do, off you have to go, straight to the toilet.” This is true. So much so that I’m genuinely mystified as to why the fuck I’m still so fat.

“But Lovely GP and his colleagues have already told me that there’s nothing they can do about it,” I reminded my mother.

“Fuck that,” she said defiantly. “What if you have what Rhona has? They originally told her that she had IBS. It was only when she insisted that they examine her more closely that they found out she had Crohn’s – and now they’ve removed her bowel, and she’ll have to use that horrible bag thing for the rest of her life. Just in case, go and see him and ask for a referral. Please. Hopefully it’s not Crohn’s, but if it is, then the sooner they find that out the better.”

I think I’m as likely to have Crohn’s disease as I am to be sanctified by Benedict XVI, but I made the appointment, if only to put her mind at rest. Things are really bad IBS-wise, but nothing has helped – medication, removal of x and y and sodding z from my diet, eating the fuck out of fibre-rich products. Nothing changes it. There is nothing Lovely GP can do, save for referring me to a specialist. And then I’ll go through the trauma of having a fucking camera shoved up my arse to find that – surprise surprise – there’s nothing they can do, but have I tried a nice bath before bed?

Still. If it calms my mother, then good.

Friday

Sitting in bed typing this. Consider the following as a scale of depression: zero is when you are awake but so full of blackness that you can’t move and might as well be comatose. Five is hide under the duvets. 10 is being able to comb your hair or something. That means that something like 100 is feeling OK. I think right now I’m at about six. This is actually good, because the rest of the week was generally hovering at zero/one, with occasional threes or fours.

I don’t entertain the notion that I’m coming out of the depression, mind you (though obviously I’d welcome it greatly if I were). I still feel fucking awful, and although I’m not going to off myself (despite the Zopiclone wobble), I keep seeing helium, bodies flying off buildings, the usual cal, floating nefariously in front of my eyes like Macbeth’s dagger. But I’ve survived this long, so don’t worry.

(Can’t be arsed to proof-read this, sorry).

Crash, Bang, Wollop

This week has been shit. My mood took a nosedive on Monday, and really only started recovering today – though that could be wishful thinking, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

It started on Sunday. I don’t know if I mentioned it on this blog or not, but a while back my mother bought A and I a joint birthday present of a weekend away in a hotel, and said weekend finally rolled around last Friday (the first time they had availability in months). We’d only had one proper day of ‘normal’ life between returning from London and heading off again, and as someone used to doing almost fuck all with her life (partly as a I’m a slave to the hangover-inducing demon of Seroquel, partly because of a crippling type of agoraphobia, partly due to Christ knows what), burning the candle at both ends in this fashion was distinctly unusual for me.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time either in London nor in the hotel – it really, truly isn’t that, and how could it be? – but I will admit that it was draining nevertheless. Up early, do stuff, meet people, live late, sleep poorly, do it all again. Drive 90 miles, have dinner, have a drink, talk to people (in rural areas of Northern Ireland, people love to talk to randoms. Having been raised near a town, this is alien territory for me), sleep poorly, up at something vaguely approximating a normal time, do stuff, eat, drink, have to put up with the mad drunkard who wants to tell you her life story and how she gave up benzos on her own but still snorts coke, go to bed, sleep poorly, drive 70 of the 90 miles, have car throw a fit, carefully drive remaining 20 miles whilst convinced car is about to blow up, get home, ruminate on potential vehicular disaster, feel ill, go back out because you’d forgotten there was a concert that night, don’t enjoy pre-gig dinner and drinks, go to gig, enjoy gig but find it tiring, leave gig in icy, pissing rain, wait for taxi, come home, sleep poorly, sleep all next day.

You get the picture.

Regular readers will know that I positively revere my car. I love the thing with a passion unsurpassed anywhere else in the material world. If I had to choose between the car and my iPhone, or the PS3, or this laptop, or my gong – I think I’d choose the car. I live in a low-level but constant fearful dread of the day when he finally dies on me. (Admittedly, and quite obviously I’d hope, that terror is nowhere near the sky-high level at which I perpetually frighten and torture myself regarding the hopefully long-in-the-future prospect of my mother’s death. I am distinctly and completely petrified of that, and think I’ll have such a major breakdown when it ((hopefully finally)) happens that I might die myself. So no, it’s not that bad – but it is highly significant nonetheless).

So when the car started going mental on Sunday afternoon, I was terrified. Chug chug, roar roar. It was like something out of fucking Formula One. It was so loud that it made every millimetre of the vehicle shudder and vibrate, which caused us as occupants nausea and headaches. Worst of all, there was damn all that I could do about it on the motorway. Well, I could have pulled over and had the RAC come out or something – I do have such cover on my insurance – but (a) how long would they have been? Sitting at the side of a motorway for hours on end would not only be soul-destroying, it would potentially be dangerous; (b) unless my life was actively threatened, I wasn’t willing to lose my no claims bonus; and (c) it was clearly an exhaust problem, and I’m not sure the good people at the RAC go about carrying the exact exhaust parts for a 12 year old and actually rather rare model of Peugeot on them.

So I drove it home. It was the least worst option. It was pissing it down when we got back to the house, so my attempts at looking underneath the car were somewhat hampered. Still, I had something of a go. No tailpipe was visible, but the rest of the fucking exhaust lay at an angle, so I suspected the former was still there, just tilted so that it was under the bumper.

Anyway. Blah. After the concert on Sunday night – and it was testament to the band’s excellence that my poor mood and physical (somatic?) illness were temporarily assuaged by the performance – I don’t think I got up until about 2pm on Monday. I then proceeded to do nothing. And then…I went back to bed.

I must have sent my mother a text message about the car, because on Tuesday evening she rang me. I made the mistake of answering the phone to her, and she plied and plied and plied me with questions: was it doing this, did it sound like that, did it swerve like this, did it turn into a Transformer and blow shit up like that, blah blah blah. And I cracked. It wasn’t her fault – as she, in a fit of justified pique at my completely unreasonable response, reminded me, she was trying to help me – but a state of heightened sensitivity and agitation that had been threatening for days finally overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t deal with having to think about anything.

She hung up abruptly, telling me she would call our mechanic.

I paced the room for a bit. I ranted on Twitter for a bit. I chewed the tops of my fingers for a bit (acting out?). I cried, simultaneously trying to claw out my eyes, for a bit. I considered resorting to self-harm for a bit. I banged my head off the wall for a bit. I wrote pathetic, whinging paragraphs overusing the term “for a bit” for a bit.

(The last one isn’t true).

My mother interrupted this phase of mentalism by ringing back with the mechanic’s advice (which was to take it to Kwik Fit ((the closest branch being half a mile from here)), rather than to him ((circa 10 miles away)), in case the peelers ((translation for the Non-Norn Irish amongst you: cops)) heard the car roaring and threw three penalty points at me). I don’t know what she said to catalyse it, but in telling her that I had gone mad again, I ended up blathering incoherently in a dysphoric, crying, desperate stream of grammatically disordered bollocks. At this point my mother developed sympathy; although she didn’t let the conversation desist (how can she not know how much I loathe phones by now?! In this case, she was making calls on my behalf!) – indeed, she came off with the usual CBT-like platitudes at which I still shudder after all these years – she did try to be helpful and kind, and I greatly appreciated that.

Long story short (well, vaguely shorter than Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady anyway), I was still blubbering and blabbering aimlessly when A came home, but his presence helped to enable me to eventually get Mum off the phone. Not having to use the device calmed me a little, but the nasty experience didn’t entirely abate.

Mum rang again yesterday to advise that an appointment had been scheduled with the local Kwik Fit for what is now today. Objectively good, subjectively night-marish. She observed that I seemed capable of conversing in a more standard version of English than that to which she had been subjected the previous evening, and as such assumed that I was ‘better’ (which I was, if you count ‘depressed’ as better than ‘depressed and agitated’).

In the course of the ensuing conversation, therefore, she asked me a lot of questions about the awards ceremony, and I was forced to lie directly to her. So I didn’t win then? Oh no, no [feigned casualness]. But they must’ve mentioned my name? Oh you know… No, she doesn’t know. Well…no… [Outraged and aghast] Good Lord, my name didn’t even crop up?!! [Brainwave] Well, it was a subsidiary award, not one of the ‘main’ ones. Oh right. Well, that’s a shame. [Thank God, maybe that’s an end to it].

So where was the presentation? [Shit]. Er…in South London. South London’s quite big, don’t I know? OK, the Southbank of the Thames. But she wants to know the name of the place. Er…er…[fucking traitorous mind goes blank]…the BFI [she won’t know what that is, so it’s OK]. What does that stand for, she wonders? [Resigned now]. British Film Institute.

And so on, and so on, and so on. I don’t blame her for her curiosity – it’s my fault she found out about the whole thing in the first place – but I hate having to wing this bullshit and keep up the enduring pretence that this persona demands.

I don’t generally have any particular moral conscience about lying; I’m a selfish bitch, and it benefits me occasionally (I should punctuate that statement by saying that this is more historical than current; for example, the old teenage favourite of “I’m staying at a friend’s” rather than “we’re going to an over 21s bar in a dodgy area until 6am”, which was so frequently followed with lies to cover the first lies, then lies to cover those lies, ad bloody nauseum. I don’t often have cause to lie these days, but as observed I am selfish, so I couldn’t rule out employing it as a potential tool of convenience). However, lying about something so (relatively) huge feels like a big, fat pile of fuckery sitting in my mind.

I discussed this a little once before. Look what this blog has become. I’ve been writing it, at times very prolifically, for two and a half years. As was noted in the introduction to it at the Mind Awards, I don’t just a write a few sentences going “life is a pile of steaming wank” every so often; I write essays. Reams and reams and reams and reams. Look at the support network that I’ve developed from this writing and from the associated Twitter account. To use an arrogant word that I thoroughly detest, but which seems apt in context, look what I’ve “achieved”; a versatile array of lovely online recognitions, and, in this particular arena (ie. blogging/social media), what is probably the biggest mental health award in the UK.

And my mother knows nothing nothing – about it. That is fucked. That is seriously fucked.

I mean, she knows I write stuff, and that it’s about mental health. My own idiocy alerted her to the fact that I was nominated for something big for said writing. She knows I do it pseudonymously. But that’s it. If I have any talent in writing – something of which I remain unconvinced – then, in this context at least, she can never “appreciate” it.

It’s a necessity, but it’s one that I bitterly regret.

Anyway, off I go on a pointless and rambling soliloquy yet again. My point, were I ever to sodding well make it, is that this huge, suffocating, grotesque lie added to my distress over the week. London, the hotel and the concert were great, but they were exhausting too, especially given the short timeframe in which they all came to pass. Christmas is closing its sky-scraping, dark walls in on me. The car trouble was a serious stressor. And I had no choice but to shove a gag of deceit down my mother’s throat.

So, although as I endlessly harp on, I believe that my mentalness is largely non-reactive, I think this particular mentalist incident (or set thereof) was (were) attributable to this cosmic confluence of events. Everything just came at once, and, overwhelmed, I couldn’t cope with it all. Whilst arguably my particular expression of the stress – thought/speech disorder, disproportionate anxiety, ruminative propensities towards self-harm as a “solution” – may have been examples of insanity, I don’t think that being upset and fucked off per se was anything other than quite normal. Even for a normal. If you know what I mean. Which would be rather impressive, because I don’t.

Anyfuckingway. Today arrived with the threat of having to see people (and see people without someone with me for support) in the form of having to go to bastarding Kwik Fit (each time I’ve typed that in this post, my fingers have behaved innately and tried to type Quick Fit. Why can’t companies just use the English language properly and stop trying to be “clever”?!).

I rose from my pit with a heavy heart. I went out for a smoke, got dressed (entirely, and quite typically, bypassing the “and washed” part. I never have written about my ablutophobia here, have I? I must do so one of these days) and left the house with the reluctance of a lover of life walking to the gallows. I am pathetic in the most fundamental of ways. Who in their right mind (well…) is filled with abject terror at the thought of getting their car exhaust fixed?!!!

So off I went, my transport ominously dragging me forth (read: car angrily growling and reverberating), to cross the seas of Acheron (drive up the road a bit). After quite a few irritated looks but, fortunately, no examples of Scylla and Charybdis (police*) accosting me, I duly found myself staring fearfully into the gaping infernos of Hades (Kwik Fit). I withdrew my last remaining hope of rescue from the final good vestige of my soul (took the keys out of the ignition) and proceeded onward to Tartarus, my final destination (the Kwik Fit reception).

(* That one’s quite dubious, but those two did fuck you up if you ran into either of them, just like the peelers probably would, so the crappy analogy works for me.

Oh, hang on. It wasn’t the police that fuck you up. It was your parents. How could I possibly have thought that Larkin had existential commentary on the police to whine out in his musings? They fuck you up, the police. It doesn’t quite work, does it? Hmm. I’m fighting a losing battle with classically depressing poetry here. This is not good. But just for clarification: Scylla and Charybdis are perfect metaphors for the ills of modern policing, and if you don’t agree, then you are wrong. Sorry, GCHQ.).

OK, enough of that pretentiously moronic guff. Terrified, I went into Qu… Kwik Fit. In what should have been an Oscar-winning performance, I confidently and charismatically explained to the bloke why I was there. He was talkative and friendly – and, to my exasperated shock, made me feel at ease. He took and checked the car, returned, and told me what was wrong. What was particularly impressive was that he took me underneath the car and specifically showed me the damage (the centre-piece had separated from the still-present tailpipe). He checked that he had a replacement part in stock, told me to come back in 45 minutes and…well, and that was that.

I went and had lunch…alone. Well, alone except for my Kindle. Result, Pan. Result! I rang my mother – she had made me promise to do so – to report on what had occurred, then I went back to Kwik Fit and waited for the car. In a few minutes, Friendly Bloke confirmed it was ready; I paid him, he wished me a merry Christmas (which, even though I hate the silly festival, was a lovely sentiment), I reciprocated, and I left. With a beautifully silent, functional, darling little car.

And I felt OK.

And the car was OK.

So I felt more OK.

Which is…OK 🙂

Actually, it’s not entirely OK. I’m not really in great form at all (it could be worse, but you know what I mean), and there’s no particular reason anymore. But I wanted to end the post on a high note! So…er…here’s a more genuine one.

Most of you are probably aware of this, but just in case you’ve missed it, voting is now open for the 2011 This Week in Mentalists awards. You can vote for your favourite blogs and discover lots of new ones over here! And if you’re new to TWIM, don’t be shy. It’s a welcoming place.

The Darker Side of Speaking Up

AWARDHAIR!!!1!!!!11!!!eleven!!!six!My hair has arrived for the awards ceremony. Do you like it?

Initially, I was unsure as to whether I could even go to the ceremony. After all, I would probably be the only person there that writes under a pseudonym, since most of the nominees are from the world of the more traditional media – papers, telly, radio and suchlike. Even amongst the ‘New Media’ short-listees (if that’s a word), as far as I know I’m the only person responsible for a nomination that’s anonymous.

However, I had a quick word on Twitter with some of the lovely folks at Mind – and they, in conjunction with their PR people, are coming up with an anonymity masterplan! I can’t say how delighted this made me, and how very kind of them to accommodate such a bizarre request! So Cinderella will go to the ball after all 🙂 I don’t expect to win anything, don’t get me wrong, but to be short-listed for such a prestigious award is such a big deal to me that simply being there will be amazing. A is coming with me, as is my best friend Daniel and, all being well, a fellow mental health blogger. If there’s enough room, I can even bring two more people 🙂

So, mentalists of the UK. If you’re kicking about in the general area of the Home Counties in late November and fancy a pale ale or three with a sad blatherer with a Pot Noodle fetish, feel free to give me a shout. We’ll be in Laaaaaahhhhaaaandaaaaaahhhhnnnnn from Saturday 26th to Wednesday 30th November. Monday night is out, as it’s the awards ceremony, and on at least one of the other days I’ll be meeting a friend, but there’s flexibility in the latter if anyone is amenable to a Mini Mad-Up.

Anyway, speaking of Mind, I have a guest post over on their blog today entitled Speaking Out is the Only Way to End Stigma (see here). Although the title mirrors what I talked about in my last post, I’ve actually looked at the issue of stigma from the other side of the coin than that which I previously discussed here. I thought I’d quote it here too, for your dubious delectation:

I consider myself a fortunate person, in that there are a wonderful – and rather diverse – range of people that I have the privilege of calling my friends. Generally, I’ve been very open with them and my relatives alike about my mental health difficulties – but there’s one group with whom, until recently, I tended to keep my mouth shut.

My partner is partially sighted, and as such his primary education was delivered in a school specialising in teaching children with visual (VI) and auditory impairments. After being reunited with a number of his schoolmates in his adulthood, I was pleased to also make their acquaintance, and am glad to report that I now consider them my friends too.

One thing that repeatedly surprised me about these otherwise lovely people, though, was their attitudes to my mental illness. They are open about their disabilities around the dinner table and, more formally, they vocally demand reasonable adjustments at work, raise money for related charities, and have been known to campaign politically on VI related issues such as traffic calming and electronic accessibility. I think it’s brilliant.

You can tell there’s a ‘but’ coming, can’t you? Here it is. In my view, if you are pro-disability rights – as every right-thinking person should be – then you should be inclusive about the meaning of the term ‘disability’. Unfortunately, mental health problems can represent potentially very severe disabilities, just as physical ones can.

This is something my friends didn’t seem to realise. I remember one night, over dinner, after they had been talking about VI issues, I shifted the subject subtlety with the intention of talking about the barriers I, also, had faced in terms of my disability. The specifics are lost to the passing of time, but I think I was alluding to the HR problems I’d faced during a depression-fuelled absence from work.

My commentary, delivered in my usual matter-of-fact tone, was met with a stony, almost horrified silence. People started staring at their food or fiddling with their wedding rings. An approaching waiter reversed back into the kitchen, having felt the tension emanating from our group. And all the while I sat there, genuinely mystified, thinking, “what did I say?!” Lest I ruin the rest of the evening, though, I decided to keep schtum thereafter, and eventually someone (quite deliberately) changed the subject, and things moved on.

That was several years ago, but if I’m brutally honest, the episode still cuts me to the core when I let myself think about it. Why is someone else’s disability considered more socially “acceptable” than mine? Why do mental health conditions still exist only in the realm of whispered taboo and under-the-carpet brushing?

This was only my second proper encounter with the stigma that continues to permeate discussions pertaining to mental health (or lack thereof). I don’t blame my friends personally: they are a product of a society and culture that remains scared of and ill-informed about psychiatric disorders, and they’re far from alone.

My first significantly prejudicial experience was in my most recent job (mentioned above), in which I had initially gone off sick with “depression”. This was deemed a common and ordinary complaint by my employers, but when my condition failed to improve and I was eventually diagnosed with, initially, borderline personality disorder and bipolar type II (now changed to complex PTSD and either bipolar I or schizoaffective disorder – go me!), their attitudes mysteriously changed. Oh, we really were in mental territory there, weren’t we? They couldn’t have that, now could they?

(I’m being slightly unfair here, as when I was eventually dismissed, I had been absent over a year – my leaving the organisation was therefore both legal and fair. However, the paradigm shift between their tolerance before and after my diagnoses was very evident).

Rather than incite meekness, however, if anything these two incidents encouraged me to speak out more about my mental health troubles, as I wrote about in my World Mental Health Day post here. It started off by writing – anonymously – on my blog (I still write pseudonymously, incidentally, but that’s because I have no choice but to protect some key personnel discussed therein), but in time I found myself openly discussing mental health in ‘real life’ too. Besides those already discussed, I only remember one particularly negative reaction – when explaining to a friend of my boyfriend’s that I was not working due to “being mental,” he replied, “is that ‘I Can’t Be Bothered With Work-Itis’ then?” Not a pleasant comment by any means – but by and large, people have been accepting, willing to listen and mostly sympathetic. I even revealed the severity of my psychotic and dissociative symptoms to an ignorant and rather set-in-their-old-fashioned-ways aunt and uncle recently; I was quite surprised when they didn’t back away in petrified horror, but instead proffered me their genuine good wishes and a listening ear.

Again, though, there’s a ‘but’. Two, actually. Firstly, it is not easy to be so unabashed about this subject to other people (particularly, I would suggest, acquaintances or strangers – you have no clues to enable you to gauge what their reaction might be). As a general rule, I’m remarkably passive in the arena of ‘real life’, but I am both blessed and cursed in having something of a bolshy streak when I feel I’m being treated unfairly, and I think it’s that force that has driven me to speak up. Secondly, even though I have received a number of pretty positive reactions to my disclosures, stigma still exists. There are still those who demonise us as loons or scroungers who should be locked up in an asylum or get back to work, respectively (though, of course, many people with a mental health problem do work). Admitting to mental health issues in such circumstances can seem like a dangerous thing to do.

I think, though, that there is ultimately good news. As many people familiar with Mind will know, the Time to Change campaign has been granted another four years’ worth of funding, which means that the very meaningful in-roads the initiative has already made can be further built upon.

As Time to Change says, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about mental health. I know it’s easy for me, an anonymous stream of words on a blog post, to say, but I really believe that speaking out is one of the key ways in which we can break down the societal barriers we’re presently forced to face. And although it sounds naïvely simplistic, if people refuse to be educated on the subject, if they make active decisions to remain prejudiced and wilfully ignorant, well – it really is their problem, and not ours. We deserve respect. We don’t deserve to have to hide behind a wall of silence.

Oh, and my visually impaired friends? One got a job in mental health training, and now often shares my material at work. Another recently ran a fund-raising event for a mental health charity. Most importantly to me personally is that, after a lot of determined “I am going to talk about this,” they are now willing to openly discuss my difficulties with me.

Proof, to me, that negative attitudes can change.

And, despite it all, I think that’s true. Feel free to share your experiences, either here or (preferably) on the Mind post itself (since it is likely to have a more diverse audience).

I was supposed to have finished writing about my last stint of therapy with Paul by today, but as you can see I’ve failed. Not that that should surprise you; it certainly doesn’t surprise me. I have no excuse really; I’ve been reading a lot, and doing a bit of my own writing, but that’s about it really. I’ll try to do the two outstanding posts this week, but this time I won’t promise.

My Mum has found out about the awards. It was entirely my fault, so I shouldn’t whinge too much about it. She still doesn’t know the specifics involved, though, and I actually came right out to her and told her I didn’t want her reading my writing because “a lot of it is very personal.”

She said, “to your present life – or your earlier one?”

A curious question, I felt. Why would she even consider the latter. given her lay understanding of mental health difficulties?

I said, feigning a typical nonchalance, “oh, you know. Everything.” Then I changed the subject, and that was that. To be on the safe side, though, I’ve blocked her IP address 😉

Not much else to report. Not seeing NewVCB until 9th November, so no new medication(s) as yet. I can’t remember at all the date of my next appointment with Christine, so will have to bloody ring the CMHT for clarification. In non-mental news, I’m off to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne next weekend for a football (watching, that is) weekend with the lads. I can’t afford it, but I’m going anyway. Cross your fingers for the Toon, please!

Anyway, folks, I’ll catch up properly next week. I hope you’re all well.

Love Pan ❤ x

The Secrecy of the Confessional

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

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

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

I am, of course, talking about this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just random thoughts, really.

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

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Futility

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

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

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

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

Odd sense of déjà vu.

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

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

Much love

Pan ❤ xxx

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Smoking (and its Possible Relation to Mentalness)

I quit smoking, after about a decade of engaging in it, on 1 January 2007. The smoking ban was coming in here in April that year, and I thought that would give me plenty of time to adjust to being a non-smoker before everyone was (in my view justifiably) forced outside to practice their lung-destroying habit.

It was a success. What worked for me really well was being absolutely decisive and certain that I simply would not smoke after that New Year’s Eve, to the point where I didn’t need any of the traditional aids that are recommended. I had bought some of that nicotine chewing gum, but (a) it was absolutely bloody rancid and (b) I was surprised to find that I almost never craved a cigarette at all. That led me to the conclusion that, in my case at least, smoking was more of a habit than an addiction.

I had had a smoking routine prior to quitting, that depended on whether I was at work or not. If the former, I got up, checked my email with tea and a fag, went to the bus-stop, smoked a fag there, got the bus, went to the coffee shop and smoked a fag there, went to work, went out for a smoke break with the others at 11am, went back to the office, went out for lunch smoking between one and three cigarettes, went back to work, smoked on the way back to the bus-stop, went home, had dinner, smoked a fag, went on computer, smoked a fag, had a cup of tea, smoked a fag. If I was not at work, I got up and sat at the computer for hours, with smoke after smoke on the go. Etc etc etc.

Yet, if I came to stay with A (I lived at Mum’s at the time), I would go for days without even thinking of the things. Mum and I even went to America for a fortnight once, and as we were staying with Aunt of Evil, we didn’t smoke the whole time…well, until we got back to the airport to go home anyway, at which juncture it all started again.

So yeah, it seemed like a habit, and a potentially controllable one at that and furthermore, one that I got very easily out of by determination alone.

Until late last year.

I don’t remember how I got back into smoking precisely. I could sit here and whine that therapy (and, in particular, the end of therapy with C) was difficult, and whilst that’s true, I don’t think it serves as an adequate excuse for lighting up again. I did it because…well, I don’t know why entirely. I think I just felt like it. Which is indubitably bad.

It’s funny; when I quit in 2007, I didn’t notice all those supposed health benefits people wank on about, such as being fitter and whatnot – but now that I’m back on the heinous things, I notice losing fitness. I have regained a smoker’s cough and am not particularly good with hills (which had been something that had been improving since I’ve lost some weight).

The weird thing about my recent re-foray into smoking is that there’s no pattern to it in the rote fashion that there was before. Some days I might smoke a lot, others I may only have one (or even none at all). This may sound more encouraging than sitting here chaining all day, but I don’t think is. I think I’ve developed a sense of complacency that I’d much rather I didn’t have; the unconscious thought process seems to be, “bah, sure you don’t smoke much anyway – why bother quitting again?” I don’t rationally think that, of course, but there’s something blasé at the back of my mind. When I was a frequent and/or heavy smoker, no such pseudo-ambivalence existed.

Of course, I have no money. In fact, I have less than no money – so the finances from the bastarding things come mainly from my ever-expanding overdraft. This, more than the health thing, is my main impetus to stop again – I mean, it’s through no fault of mine that I’m disabled from working at present, but I still think it’s a travesty that public money is going on this grotesque pursuit.

So, in light of this and related concerns, I had determined that I would quit again on 4 April – ie. Monday coming. Rather than celebrate this in the way I had when I had planned on giving up fags before, I’ve been sort of nervous about it. I know that the claim that smoking relieves stress has physiologically been proven to be false, but I think that in certain circles it is accepted that people psychologically gain relief from it, in much the same way that one might do with a placebo drug. And I have been under some stress recently – not much by comparison to times in the past perhaps, but not insignificantly nevertheless. Poor A has been under immense pressure at work lately, and it’s hard not to worry about him. Psychotherapy, whilst productive at present, is fucking hard work. I’ve also been completely obsessed that my mother is about to die, and have now got it into my head that the McFauls will find out the truth (not that they would believe it as the truth, of course), and that Paedo’s life will be ruined. I mean, as stated a million times, if the McFauls never speak to me again, that may be very vaguely unfortunate for me personally, but I’d get over it. I’m not their biggest fans, after all, even if one or two of them are OK. However, I don’t particularly wish to tar him with the brush of paedophilia this late in his life. I don’t like him, but I don’t wish him ill either.

So, I’m led to wonder – is this odd sort of “oh well” about quitting smoking related to my tendency to panic about not very much? When I quit in 2007, life was pretty reasonable. I had just recovered from a major breakdown (not at all as major as this one, but the most significant one to that point) – so much so that I was going back to work. Things were fairly good, insofar as existence can ever be said to be good. Now – life is not abjectly, unspeakably awful in the way it was a few weeks ago, and my mood feels stable-ish – but “what ifs” and a sort of low-level agitation can be quite independent of mood, I’ve found. I’m still on edge a lot, and up to my usual old tricks of perpetual catastrophising.

I went to see Mum, newly tanned from a holiday, yesterday – and was quasi-horrified to find that, instead of buying me some sort of tourist tat as she normally would have done (she and I tend to exchange crappy fridge magnets from our respective foreign trips), she’d brought me a big packet of cigarettes. Enough to do me for the next month, or maybe even more.

My pointless little story gets particularly pathetic here. I don’t want to not smoke them, because that would apparently be insulting to her given that she put the money, time and effort into buying me the bloody things. Rationally, I know that’s preposterous – she’d rather see the fuckers binned and her money lost than me not give up as intended (though apparently my intended date has skipped her memory, but she’s nearly 70 now so we can forgive her that). But I have this nonsense in my head now. It reminds me of certain circumstances that commenced way back before I started this blog: I’d randomly feel sorry for Any Old Thing, and then want not to “reject” it. In this case, it feels like I am vicariously rejecting my mother if I reject her present, which was purchased with every goodwill.

I am glad to be an idiosyncratic person in general, but I often wish I wasn’t in this sort of domain. What possible reason do I have for this stupid sort of – as bourach once put a similar phenomenon – dilemminating? In this specific instance, it’s particularly counter-productive and idiotic.

So will I actually stop smoking on Monday as intended? I hope so, but I’m really angry with myself that my intentions feel so vague, so wholly different from last time. It’s a disgusting, filthy habit – and as discussed in the comments of a recent post I wrote, it’s ultimately a more destructive method of self-harm than that which we traditionally associate with such actions. I am ashamed of it, more so than many things that are generally much less socially accepted. I keep worrying about Paul smelling smoke from me – yet I am quite happy to call myself a dirty whore and talk intimately about sexual issues to him.

I did get a “help with quitting” kit this time, and will indeed purchase additional aids as required (pricey, but cheaper to me and the British taxpayer in the long-run). I just can’t guarantee it’ll be this week, as planned. And now that I’ve admitted that, of course I feel like the big fat failure of fuckery that I am.

On an unrelated note, there’s very little to report. Monday’s therapy session was not one of those conversational ones that for some reason some of you seem to find enlightening; it was very introspective, but there’s probably something good in that. I’ll write about it in a day or two. Mood-wise, things are alright-ish – in fact A and I have have just been crying with laughter at this…

:D

…but still, as observed above, a bit of anxiety and worry. Part of me is vaguely concerned that my increased dosage of Venlafaxine might be inducing a mild mixed state, but on the other hand, there’s lots of exhaustion – ah, insomnia, how I hast not missed thou. Boring all round, really. Part of me almost regrets getting so up to speed on all those weeks of therapy reviews, because now I only have one thing to write about. So I thought I’d do one of those weird speculative filler posts, ie. this one, that I sometimes write when I have nothing to say 😉

The Sad Story – Paul: Week 18

Beware. There is a lot of ranting in this post. My ire is mainly the rage I usually harbour on the relevant matters, but the particularly belligerent style of some of the following is also partly attributable to the fact that I’m listening to Metallica as I write this.

So, if you’re averse to cursing or aggressive outbursts, then you’d better fuck off now.

Triggers: domestic violence, sexual abuse (including the idea of a resulting pregnancy), self-harm, suicide (vaguely), religion (loosely and rantishly, sorry), parental violence, general un-karmic unfairness.

I felt that Monday’s session was extremely productive, if extraordinarily difficult in retrospect. After the usual initial ‘what do I say now’ questions, I found myself on a sort of discursive roll, and talked openly and honestly for quite a while. When he inevitably had to end the session, I was frustrated rather than my usual relieved.

The truth is that very little of the more meaningful work centred around sexual abuse. I spent the vast majority of the useful part of the session discussing my parents, their relationship, and my relationship with them. A lot of the stuff discussed has already been covered elsewhere on this blog already, so forgive me for any repetitiveness.

I’ll warn you again of triggers – revisiting this material as I have been writing it up caused me to end up in tears. Perhaps it’s not particularly triggering to outsiders – I think my upset comes from my closeness to it – but consider yourselves cautioned nevertheless. [LATER: I’ve just tried to proof-read this post, and I can’t help but feel that I’ve been overly histrionic in my trigger warnings, expressions of harrowment (yes, it is a word) and various breakdowns in the course of this post. The material certainly isn’t all fluffy and dainty, but still – if I’ve been OTT I’m sorry. I feel like a bit of a twat, but the stuff herein is both close and important to me.]

The session opened with a rant about how shit NHS mental health services are. What a surprise! The short version of this conversation is that Paul thinks I’ve been treated like utter shite by them. Yeah – tell me something I don’t know, mate.

The conversation arose due to my telling him that I was meeting my new CPN the following day (and shitting myself regarding same) and further, that NewVCB had requested a surprise encounter on Wednesday. Paul asked why I felt they were “upping the ante” (have we heard that phrase anywhere recently, readers?) by suddenly throwing all this extra ‘care’ at me.

I proffered the opinion that they were running scared, as when I’d last seen NewVCB, I was on the verge of exit-bagging myself to death. (I later retracted this criticism a little. I am a cynic, pessimist and misanthrope by nature, and until I have definite proof that people aren’t out to get me, I both choose to believe and innately feel that they are. In reality, NewVCB is not a bad person to have as a consultant ((despite her (((inherited))) nickname on this blog)), and I don’t necessarily believe that she is acting to cover her, or indeed the Trust’s, arse).

I told Paul about how his ‘upping the ante’ phrase reminded me of that two-faced whore from last January. I also added that she had apparently told C that she had “no concerns about my mental health” (I still can’t get over that one – how offensive and disgustingly inaccurate!).

Paul said, “it’s like they only care if you die. They don’t care how much you suffer, as long as you’re still alive and they don’t have to justify themselves to anyone.”

Nails on heads there, Paul. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I think NewVCB does (and perhaps Christine will) give a flying shite about my actual welfare as opposed to my mere continued existence, but as a bureaucratic entity, I distinctly feel that the NHS does not – and as long-term readers will know, that is hardly a new opinion. (Though having said that, the deeper I go into mental health services, the more I see how much my care lacked over the past 13/14 years. I touched on that a little on Wednesday, and may elaborate in a future post).

I assume that my continued rage is palpable from the tone of this narrative. It certainly was to Paul, though I tried my best to remain measured. The reality was I wanted to kick the living shit out of the poor, innocent shelf on my left, imagining it was Mr Director-Person‘s smug, elfish face. I wanted to take the phone on said shelf and use it to smash his management-wrinkled cheeks into smithereens.

This inevitably led to a conversation on transference. I would make clear at this point, again, that Paul agrees that the Trust have treated me like some turd they stood in, and believes my anger towards them to be fair and absolutely just. Yet he also has a theory about the sheer strength of it. Essentially, he wonders if I unconsciously see the Trust in loco parentis – is my hateful anger displaced towards them instead of being focused on my parents?

Of late, I have become completely obsessed with the idea that my mother is going to die. Well, of course she’s going to die – aren’t we all? But you know what I mean; I’m terrified she’s going to drop dead in the next few years, which is something with which I do not think I could cope. I’m both advantaged and disadvantaged by the fact that my parents were in their 40s when I was born – on the one hand, I had a mother that had lived already (insofar as my father allowed, at least), with all the knowledge and education that that brings. On the other, of course, that means that I’m statistically more likely than my peers to lose her when I’m fairly young. As you know, my father has already snuffed it, not that I care about him.

Anyway, when Paul asked me about my apparent anger towards the two of them, I told him that I was not allowed to criticise my mother for the above reason. Furthermore, she is on holiday this week. If I am in any way critical of her before her flight on Saturday, then the plane will crash and I will have killed her through my horrible words.

He raised his eyebrow incredulously and said, “you’re very bloody powerful.”

I laughed bitterly. “You should have seen me last week,” I sneered. “I was responsible for Colonel Gadafi’s evil and have caused a potential mass genocide in Libya.”

I watched his face carefully. He may claim he’s not an intellectual, but when he furrows his brow in a certain way, you know he’s processing, analysing, computing. Had his skull been transparent, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a full system of cogs turning in there. Cogs that say things like ‘magical thinking’, ‘delusions’ or ‘psychosis’.

Of course, Paul does not like “labels” (I word I still abhor in this context), so rather than merely accuse me of any of these things, he was evidently trying to work out why Colonel Gadafi is my fault (perhaps I was his mother in a past life? Who knows). However, he surprised me when he didn’t quiz me on that particular supposition.

Instead, he said, “in that great psychological tradition, tell me about your mother.”

Ah, I see. He thinks Gadafi is a deflection. It probably was, to be fair.

“How do you feel about your mother right now?” he continued.

“I feel sorry for her,” I told him.

“Why?”

“Because my father was such an epic wanker. She deserved better from him…and probably from me too.”

Talk about opening the fucking floodgates.

“She deserved better than me because I was very difficult for her to deal with as a teenager,” I went on. “In my defence, I was clinically ill – but how does a person with no frame of reference [I’m an only child] distinguish severe depression from ‘mere’ teenage angst?”

Paul asked for more detail. That detail is something I’ve shirked from on this blog, because I can’t bear thinking about those horrible days. I hated my first five years at grammar school; they remain, quite steadfastly, the most dark and bleak of my life (even though these last three have sort of been more mental, if you get the distinction). Just thinking about my complete desolation back then can bring a tear to my eye.

How is this linked to my Mum? Well, as noted, not only did I hate school, but I was utterly crippled by major depressive illness. These issues conspired together and rendered me completely incapable of even getting out of bed for virtually weeks on end. There were times I didn’t even rise to take a piss, which I know is repulsive, but there you have it. It was that bad. Mum, in part acting on manipulative information fed to her by my Head of Year (a grotesque, vile little man), assumed that my behaviour was standard jadedness and sloth.

This resulted in Some Bad Stuff. Only she, I (having been there) and A (as I told him) know of this, but here goes. In order, I assume, to ruse me out of my pit of despair, she used to beat the living shite out of me. I have very distinct memories of lying, staring at my purple bedroom wall, my back to her, as she brought her clenched fists down – on my arms, abdomen, legs. Even my head and face at times. She would do this in blind fits of seeing-red-rage, meaning, of course, that the fist/me impact was all the greater. One side of my body would end up being as purple from bruising as the wall that I non-reactively fixated my eyes upon.

“Of course,” I said to Paul, “it’s not her fault; not really. She didn’t know what was normal teen moodiness, and what was serious, raw suffering.”

He pursed his lips slightly and asked if my teenage self had realised that.

To be honest, my teenage self hadn’t realised anything much. A lot of the time I didn’t even feel the agony with which I should have been faced after such violence. Depression was all I was. It was all I felt, physically, psychologically, every -ally. I didn’t register anything else for the majority of the time.

“Where was your father when all this was happening?” he queried, carefully.

Cue another scornful laugh. “You tell me,” I said, my bitter spite hardly curbed.

But I thought for a minute. Where was my father? Yeah, probably drunk in a ditch after trying to rape some woman then beating her up because she fought him – but, on a wider level, where was he? He died in 2007 (I think), which would have made me 23 or 24. So we would have been talking about nine or 10 years previously.

That’s where he was, I thought, having one of those rare ‘aha’ moments of existence. He was in a nursing home.

I’m sure I’ve alluded to this before, but for the initiated or those that don’t have photographic memories, V (father) developed MS, and was placed in a home as the illness progressed. I have always resented this with more bitterness than I can describe, even with all the pejorative words and expletives of the English language at my grand disposal.

Aside from raping and beating my mother, cuckolding her, trying to kill her, throwing her out windows etc, he also completely fucked her financially. He took every spare penny she had, and spent it on alcohol. When she divorced him – which was done to protect me, the final straw for same being after he (accidentally, but drunkenly) dropped my few-weeks-old self onto the hearth one day – she even agreed to his demands to pay the remainder of the mortgage, just so as she could get rid of him.

Then. Then! He gets his nice benefits, and they pay for him to have a nice room in a nice home with nice staff treating him to nice things, like nice papers in the morning and nice trips to the football in the afterfuckingnoon. I’m sorry (especially to Christian readers), but there can be no God in this despicable universe. If there was, how would – how could – He allow such outrageously unjust acts to permeate this gruesome species that He created? How in anyone’s estimation can that be considered a reasonable way to conduct the universe You own? (And please, please, no ‘God works in mysterious ways’ shit. I know most of you would never condescend me in that fashion, but avoidance of doubt is always a good thing).

I remembered Georgie and Merv, the fucking cunts, who went to see V when he was in this home. I remembered whatever their son and his bitch are called doing the same, and said bitch feeling sorry for the nasty cunting fucker. For those that don’t know the fucked-up dynamics of my family, Georgie is my mother’s sister, and is married to Merv, my father’s brother. Nice bit of pseudo-incest going on there, oh yes.

My mother’s sister. MY MOTHER’S FUCKING SISTER. She spent 20 years idly listening to tales of my mother’s horrible life from the other side of the Atlantic, and then – then – just because that FAT FUCK became ill, he is somehow worthy of her flying eight hours to come and fucking see him?! FUCKING CUNTWHOREBITCH. I hate her. I fucking despise the fucking nasty, hypocritical, self-righteous CUNT. (Much as I love it, sometimes I wish I didn’t use the word cunt with such frequency, because it loses its impact in this circumstance. But rest assured, dearest readers, I despise her with a passion almost unrivalled. HATE HATE HATE).

Then they took all the money when V died, despite the rightful entitlement to same lying with my mother, after the financial rape he inflicted upon her. But this has never been about money; just indescribable injustice.

Something randomly occurred to me at this point in the session. I met Paul, and indeed first went to Nexus, last August. A good half-year since I changed my name.

“Are you aware that [Pandora Serial-Insomniac] is not my born name?” I asked Paul. “I wasn’t born with this surname. I changed it to dissociate myself from V and his family.”

“No, I didn’t know that,” he returned thoughtfully. “Did it work?”

“I feel better for having done it,” I nodded. And I do.

[An aside – he got the reference vis a vis my new name. I am most impressed 😉]

So, my anger towards V was abundantly clear by this point. My earlier sweet, sweet fantasy of battering Mr D-P’s face in with a phone was superseded by an uncomfortable but viscerally murderous rage towards my father and his pack of cunts. That was not enough to satisfy Paul, however.

“Where’s the anger at your mother in all this?” he asked again, looking over his glasses intently at me.

Part of me wanted to say there that wasn’t – there isn’t – any. Whatever she, in her at-the-time ignorance, did to me as an adolescent, pales into abject insignificance when compared to what he did to her (and by extension to me). She didn’t do any of it because she’s evil, or because she hated me or something. She did it borne out of frustration and ignorance. She is better informed now.

But that denial wouldn’t be entirely true, would it? Any of you that have read the archives here or follow me on Twitter will have seen me rant about her with not-inconsiderable frequency. I know, I know – all daughters find themselves irritated at their mothers from time to time. Often, though, minor instances of irritation between us blow up into screeching, blazing rows (again, I know that happens to the rest of the world on occasion, but it seems to be frequent within our relationship). Having learnt the dynamics, I sometimes have to try really hard to bite my tongue rather than express even the most basic opinion to my mother. It may well be the same from her angle – I have no idea.

I relayed the information to Paul. “And when I rant about her online, then either she’s nice to me, or I catch a glimpse of her wedding photo, and I burst into tears of both guilt over my actions and of sorrow for the shit life she’s been given.”

The wedding photo one is the worst. She was only 21, and she was educated, attractive, personable and smart. Life, and the future it brought, should have been so encouraging and bright for her. Instead there was nothing but pain and bitter anguish throughout. She deserved better than that.

“You said your father raped your mother,” Paul said, interrupting my introspective musing. “Did you ever witness one of those incidents?”

I’m amazed that I was able to answer this. How can I speak to a virtual stranger about something I’ve never spoken to anyone else about before? (Well, technically I spoke to one person before him, which I shall explain forthwith).

I’ve had a picture of one particular evening in my mind for virtually all my life. V had left our home at the time, but it was before I was at school (I think), so I must have been three or four. I got out of bed for some reason – possibly simply because I knew V was still there, or maybe because I heard something – and, apparently surreptitiously, made my way downstairs. When I opened the door into what was then the living room, I was confronted with a…scene.

My mother turned her head in horror and ordered me back upstairs. My father just sort of…I don’t know…hung (?) there, trying to avoid my gaze. I retreated, though, as I was told.

The next day, when V had fucked off again, I confronted my mother about what I had seen.

She looked confused (which I’m fairly certain was an act, given the context, but what do I know) and said, “but your Dad wasn’t even here after you went to bed last night. You must have been dreaming.” [LOL, Mum. Yeah. Pre-school children really dream about their parents fucking].

“I wasn’t dreaming,” I protested assuredly.

“Now, now, Pandora, you must have been,” she replied nonchalantly. “He wasn’t here! Now then, let’s do…[end of conversation].”

I never raised it with her (or anyone else, obviously) again, though I’ve thought about it often enough. There are a number of possible explanations for it:

  1. I did witness them engaged in sex, but it was consensual.
  2. I did witness them engaged in sex, but it was rape (more likely, given their estrangement).
  3. I genuinely was dreaming.
  4. It is a phantom memory.

(4) has been the one I’ve always tried to convince myself of, because I remember so clearly that I was absolutely adamant (to myself as well as Mum) that I wasn’t dreaming. As noted, what small kid dreams of such things anyway? If it is real, then I hope (1) is the applicable explanation…but my mother has always been governed by morals when it comes to sex. I really can’t see her willingly engaging in so-called ‘ex-sex’ in any circumstance.

It does get worse. Sorry. My mother has advised me that raped her a lot, inflicted physical violence on her on an almost daily basis, he threw her out a window “a couple” of times, and he tried to kill her on several occasions. Smothering, strangling, crushing – asphyxia mostly, but there were other methods too. However, the worst comes in the untold stories. She has admitted all this indescribably terrible stuff to me – but, she also tells me, there is a fuck of a lot more that she will “take to her grave and never share with anyone.”

How can it get any worse? Seriously? How unimaginable must the rest be, given how really-quite-a-bit-unimaginable the stuff I do know is?!

They had been married, if you can call such a violent sham a ‘marriage’, 20 years when I was born. I presume that violence of every conceivable manner was the staple of my mother’s existence at the time. There’s no evidence that I have ever been party to, and no reason to presume that any even exists, to suggest that they had any good times together by that point. Well – ostensibly they occasionally did; they wore their dainty little masks of smug-married-ness to the golf club and so on, even though the vast majority of those they knew were aware of the reality – but in real terms, no. She stuck with him because, she claims, she had “meant her marriage vows”. He stuck with her, I’d surmise, because she brought in most of the household income, and was an easy scapegoat for his repugnant aggression.

I’m rambling now, but there is a point to this. By the early ’80s, after 20 years of this, there can’t have been much love between them. So…how did I come into the world?

My mother has denied that I am a product of rape. I have confronted her on the issue twice, and though I’d like the truth, I’ll forgive her for lying to me on this occasion. One characteristic I inherited from my father (not a particularly appealing one, but then what genes from him would be?) was the ability to lie to someone with great skill. My mother, coming from a differing bloodline (though with the Georgie/Merv thing, one could be forgiven for getting confused on that!), has not got that particular attribute.

Is the line the lady doth protest too much from Hamlet? I think so. Clearly my mother hadn’t read the play on the occasions on which I asked her about my conception. If it wasn’t so tragic it would actually be funny – here’s an example of what she gushed on one occasion:

Of course you were not conceived by a rape! Not at all, no! No, it was lovely [incidentally, I don’t want to think about the mechanics of it either way, but meh]. I knew right away that I was pregnant [yes, of course you did, Mum – reproduction is instant after all ***cough***], and I was so happy, it was the one such incident at the time where we were actually really happy together!

Even assuming that were true (it’s not utterly impossible, but it does seem unlikely), how can she be so sure which incident resulted in her pregnancy? If he was sexually assaulting her as frequently as he was inflicting grievous bodily harm on her person, then she could have had virtually no way of determining that.

After I’d finally concluded my verbal narrative on this issue to Paul, he said, “you were born out of a toxic, horrible place…and all too soon you were forced back [by Paedo] to a toxic horrible place.”

“The thing is,” I said flatly, “I connect all the dots. Once again, I’m the common denominator in all of this. It’s about me, something I’ve somehow brought about, not others. It’s all my fault.”

[When I first re-read my notes on this session, I completely collapsed at this point with a raw, profound, overwhelming sadness, the like of which I have not experienced in years – perhaps since my grandfather died].

Paul said, “you take on the burden of being the ‘common denominator’ too easily. The common denominator is not you – it’s an abusive family.”

Actually, it isn’t – my father and Paedo are completely unrelated, other than by their respective marriages. Nevertheless, writing this, I find myself struck dumb by Paul’s statement. I detest V with every fibre of my being, and I know this is an irrational thing to say, but I’ve never seen my family in this way. They just are. They might be freaks, they might be dull, they might irritate the living fuck out of me – but abusive? They’re not abusive! And yet – two of them are. Two of them were. V and Paedo. Paedo and V.

Abusive. It’s a strong word.

I conceded that my family were/are “not the bastions of moral upstanding” (typical Pandorian deflective-response there) and added that if all of them – Mum most assuredly excepted, though – sunk into the Irish Sea tomorrow, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid nor shed a tear. Perhaps that’s not entirely true, but it’s a reasonable reflection of my ambivalence.

And then…

“We’re going to have to finish there,” he said, apologetically. Actually, I think he was almost embarrassed. For my part, I was profoundly frustrated. I’d got into a sort of rhythm where all this stuff just seemed to roll off my tongue without any real cerebral planning, and now it was being cruelly broken.

I tried to play it down, but my annoyance was pretty obvious. It wasn’t directed at Paul in the least, but at the whole arbitrary 50-minute-hour bullshit. Therapy is such a weird construct.

He asked how the session had been for me.

I said that I was bad.

“Why?!” Paul queried, apparently genuinely confused. “I actually thought we just did some really good work.”

Thank fuck for that, then. “Actually, me too,” I admitted. “I’m just aware that I’m here to discuss one type of traumatic incident with you, and here I am blathering about my parents. I can’t help but think it’s still very relevant, though.”

He nodded. “It’s all inter-connected, all part of the system that you’re now dealing with. Inevitably this informed your childhood a lot, so it’s definitely relevant. And going over gory details of your abuse every week isn’t necessarily therapeutic.”

So. That was Monday’s meeting. Now, this is the weird thing. Apart from the two instances of anger I described in the foregoing prose, I sat there and spoke quite matter-of-factly as I detailed all the sordid, horrible truths to Paul. I left the building and went to the shop as I often do, returning to house to start writing Monday’s post. I went to see Christine on Tuesday and the only thing that concerned me at the time was my unfamiliarity with her.

On Tuesday night, I read the notes I’d taken pertaining to this session, and at the ‘common denominator’ point, a mental paradigm shift starting slapping me around the face. I broke down and wept…proper wailing, sobbing, snot, the horrible works. I wept for my mother, and her undeservedly horrible, shit life. And I wept for myself. And as I’ve typed this up, I’ve broken down several times. In fact, in the nearly two years I’ve been blogging here, this has been the most harrowing post I’ve ever written. Harrowing. Another big word. But the only one that fits.

When A inevitably noticed my upset on Tuesday and asked what was wrong, I said, “it’s just such a sad story.”

“What is?” he asked gently.

“My life!” I sobbed. “No child should ever have to go through any of that!”

What’s that you say, lovely reader? Compassion? Moreover…a little self-compassion? Acceptance? Grief?

I don’t know. I really don’t. I do know, though, that I don’t think I have any meaningful secrets left to tell you. All of this material was the last major batch of Stuff You Didn’t Yet Know About Pandora. So there you go, readers. You know, to all intents and purposes, everything about me. Everything about my life.

My life, the sad story.

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