Perspectives from the Mentalist's Best Friend

Good afternoon, loveliest readers. Following the success of A’s series of guest posts for Confessions on daily life with a mental, my best friend Daniel asked if he could add some thoughts of his own. Clearly I jumped at the chance to have these insights, so I fired him off a couple of questions, which, along with his answers, now follow. Enjoy ūüôā ~ Pan

What was it like growing up with a mental friend? Did you know how mental she was? Did you ‘get’ some of her weird behaviour? What, if anything, did you feel you could do about it?

An interesting question, because as a teenager, rather than consider my friend to be mental, I considered her to be interesting; as such, I chose to emulate her behaviour.

I remember running up and down streets carrying a curtain pole. I recall parading around people’s living rooms with a cushion on my head, making stupid noises. I was there when we walked home, unable to afford our bus fares [Pan – having spent our money on alcopops, if I recall], from the near-ish-but-far-to-walk-from large town (approximately eight miles, if my memory serves me correctly) – all the while pretending to be German, talking to every person we met in broken English. They were helpful in offering us directions and admitted that they had forgiven us for “the war” when we insisted on apologising for it (and yes, I’m still laughing about it now, perhaps 15 years later). [Almost literally pissing myself at that one. Ah, memories…].

Oh, almost forgot: we phoned teachers in the middle of the night pretending to aroused horses, cats and vampire bats. Good times.

This seemed to me to be completely normal, acceptable behaviour – and if I am brutally honest, it still does [agreed]. This is how we chose to spend our time and was what made us laugh as children. Of course, society may judge young people behaving like this as being weird, unbalanced and perhaps even dangerous – but this is certainly not how it seemed to be at the time.

But, in saying all that…I was also there the night Pan took her first overdose (I think we were 16). I recall watching her take the pills and I helped her mum force her to spit them out. I was still there that night in the hospital, when Pan informed the staff that if she were allowed to go home, she would kill herself. A sanctimonious A&E doctor curtly replied, “no, you won’t. Manics don’t want to kill themselves”, to which Pan calmly (bearing in mind she’d been hysterical only moments before) explained, “oh that’s interesting, because I do”. [I don’t remember this bit; I hadn’t realised I’d talked back to the supercilious bitch. Good.]

And in a moment of what should have been horror for any young person, that wry smile – infectious when around Pan – spread across my lips; here we had this suicidal teenager who, despite her suffering, still had the audacity and quick-thinking to look a doctor in the eye and calmly tell her that she didn’t understand a word of what she was talking about (though Pan’s mum was naturally mortified).

Who doesn’t love a bit of black humour?

But in all seriousness. I just went with it. When Pan got out of the hospital, we did talk through the issue that had upset her. But we never psychoanalysed her decision to overdose (on ibuprofen? [yes. That makes me cringe now.]). It wasn’t the sort of friendship we had then – again, because it was just normal for me.

If you knew me, you’d know I judge everybody. I can’t help it. It’s a cold part of an unashamedly bitchy streak of mine. I judge people on their clothes, their hair, their reading habits, what music they like, their accents, and the things they say.

With that in mind, the following may be surprising. I think Pandora’s the only person in the world other than my partner that I love unconditionally. As such, she’s one of the few who’s been immune to this cult of judgement – back in school, throughout university, and still today. For her part, she has never formed an judgemental opinion of me, despite supporting/counselling my countless foolish decisions. Perhaps these acts have been made because of some undiagnosed mentally interesting characteristic in my head, I don’t know; as such, either way, I have never formed any judgement on the way she thinks and what she does. Ever. And I never will. I can’t understand the exact thoughts in her head – and again, I probably never will – but I ‘get’ why she has them.

So – growing up with a mental friend? Every day was an adventure. Most days were fabulous. On a daily basis, Pandora painted my dull life with beautiful colours. No one has ever made me laugh as much as her. She knows me inside out – in ways that, almost terrifyingly, I do not know her [you do, my dear. Believe me, you do].

Did I know how mental she was? Yes. Definitely yes.

What could I do about it? Not a lot. But I hope I was one of the things in her life that at least didn’t exacerbate the problem. Although thinking about it…curtain pole/teacher stalking/rollerblading late at night/”Shinobi”-wise – I totally did, didn’t I? [Indubitably. But in the most hilarious and uplifting way possible ūüôā]

To what extent has a physical separation impacted upon your friendship with the mental, if at all?

I don’t like it very much. But I know “the mental”, as she so eloquently puts it, very well in different ways. Her blog outlines in detail what she is up to, so on a very cosmetic level I know how she’s getting on [or did, until I took an unannounced hiatus. Explanations and more for that next week]. And I understand a lot better now what she’s thinking. So that’s nice.

Fundamentally Pandora has always behaved exactly the same with me, so when I see her, we click back in. Since I have been away she has developed her relationship with A, who is now also a good friend, so it’s been great to get to know them as a couple and have – to an extent – a more traditionally ‘civilised’ friendship.

Mental wise? Her condition certainly seems to be to be more complicated now – but then, I read about it on a screen. If she were to talk to me about it face to face – and we have done so, on some issues – it is/would be no different to how she communicated things to me when we were children/teenagers. Still, this blog certainly allows us to have a ‘conversation’ (about mental health) that is often made more difficult in person. But I imagine that’s because of the context, therapy, drugs, triggers etc etc – inevitably, analysis of such difficult issues is more easily tackled in the written word, no matter how close the relationship.

How do you reconcile the teenager you knew with the depths of the person you now do?

Right – I have touched on this a little bit. But she’s very, very similar. Pan has always been deep, though perhaps she is much more considered now in how she speaks. I don’t witness her highs or lows, since I see her maybe only three times a year, usually in a public setting – so she comes across to me as the same girl. And often we will reminisce, so we talk a lot about us as children.

But now, what’s interesting to me is how rather than reacting angrily to her mental health difficulties in the way she might have perhaps done as a teenager – she actually uses them for something constructive. It’s quite inspiring actually.

Perhaps some of the people who read this blog have a certain schadenfreude about the terrifying thoughts that go through Pan’s head and how she reacts to them…But she’s really not a dramatic person. She’s calm, caring, thoughtful, considerate and although she does like the occasional bit of recognition for a job well done, this blog doesn’t exist to win awards or amass some sort of international recognition, or whatever. Rather, it’s to help three groups of people.

  1. Pan – to keep a diary of her progression and an archive of how she is feeling after certain therapy session and/or drug cocktails
  2. To help people like me who are ignorant about mental ill health understand that sufferers are ordinary people leading extraordinary lives
  3. To provide information and a forum for people who are suffering – so they know they are not alone.

She wouldn’t have had the balls to do this as a teenager – no one I knew would have, and most wouldn’t now. To take something like mental illness – something that can be so powerful and destructive – and harness it into something that has been described by influential types in the mental health sector as “beautiful” is, in my mind, the mark of an exceptionally gifted woman.

This side to her, although I knew it was there in ways…well. I don’t think I could have ever imagined from knowing her as a teenager that she had all the facets and experiences that led to the persona we all now know as Pan…Does that make sense? [very much so. I didn’t know this…entity, I suppose, of Pandora existed until relatively recently either]. The Ang Sang Su Chi/Eva Peron/Catherine the Great of the Madosphere? We’ll see [don’t be so melodramatic!!!].

The mental is, of course, mental. As a writing professional yourself – knowing that the mental narcissictally proclaims herself a writer – do you that think she has any realistic occupational prospects in this arena (be honest)?

Ok – she has won more awards than most well-known or full-time writers, and turns in copy that is tidier and requring less editing that the majority of journalists I work with.

But writing is a big job description.

The issue here is in confidence. I can only speak for myself in my own job. I have to attend networking events in rooms with dozens of suits I don’t know, attend dinners and sit at tables with people I’ve never met – and talk to them. I have to interview executives in their offices, over the phone, speak to PRs and have hideous corporate lunches – daily.

Pan would hate all of this shit. [I would…most assuredly, I would].

I had to write a 3,000 word feature once on bio-degradable microwavable packing (I can send you it to read if you want [I cracked up at this. Please send it. It sounds incredible!]) as a freelance piece when I was looking for a job – and I can’t imagine her ever doing this.

But, and I really don’t want to sound patronising here, she has a hell of a lot of raw talent and will dedicate herself to something – but only if she’s passionate about it.

I would LOVE to see her have a regular column in a paper or magazine, edit a serious mental health journal, or – dare I say it – write a book.

This is probably where the future lies – but I know she’s already talking to editors, making strides and breaking into the wider arena. I think there is a lot to be hopeful about. It’s just about planning a strategy and working to it, and I’m learning that Pan doesn’t necessarily tend to let things she’s terrified of stop her from doing what she wants, if she really wants something (although she doubted herself…MIND awards anyone? She was petrified of attending the ceremony, yet she threw caution to the wind and just went). [Very true – I was genuinely terrified of attending the event (fucking anxiety), but knew it would be a travesty, both personally and professionally, not to. I’m so glad now that i forced myself to go, of course – but I managed to get through my agitation and enjoy the night, in part, with Daniel’s help ūüôā].

And that, boys and girls, is a rap.

Can I just add here that I am touched and flattered and have a warm fuzzy feeling inside after reading all that Dan has written here. I know he loves me, but it’s always nice to be reminded of it. I love him too ūüôā With a friend like Dan, and a partner like A (whom, obviously, I also love very much), I really have much to be thankful for. You two rock. ~ Pan

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 fa√ßade 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” fa√ßade 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).

CPN Appointment

***Possible Self-Harm Triggers, Blah Blah Blah***

Saw Christine on Thursday afternoon for the first time late December. Explained all that had happened in the first few months of 2012 and how things are very, very shit. She seemed to be of the view that this is a depressive episode more generally, because of the self-harm in which I engaged before Maisie’s death (she views it as serious because I was trying to dig out the veins in my hands, and seeing if I could sever the tendons in my wrists. When I shrugged it off, she said, “you do realise that this isn’t…normal, don’t you?” I said that I didn’t know). All that has happened, of course, has not exactly helped me claw my way back up the slippery slope I’m currently navigating.

She was horrified to hear that, as I spoke, Paedo was sitting in my mother’s living room. I explained that the reason for his presence was my mother and the McFauls’ over-compensatory just because the matriarch is dead doesn’t mean we’re not still family!¬†routine. Christine opined that this must have been very difficult for me. I said that I didn’t care, but I don’t think she believed me.

Complained about either losing her or losing NewVCB; went on a rant (well, insofar as I was able to speak) about how much the health service has failed me in the past, and just as it had started to get things right, it was cunting them up again. I must have looked particularly distressed at some juncture because she appeared to think I was about to burst into tears – “that’s really¬†hit you hard, Pan,” she said, adding that the entire CMHT is furious about the changes – at which point I said that I do not do¬†tears and that even when I’m sitting alone in the house and feel the ‘need’ to cry, I do not permit myself to engage in said activity because someone will be watching me through the¬†clandestine¬†cameras that follow me about.

Naturally, this remark piqued her interest, and she asked if I really believed it, or if it’s just a feeling. I said that I knew it was ridiculous – “maybe they were right when they diagnosed me with a personality disorder, it’s just that they got the specifics wrong; it’s not borderline, it’s narcissistic” – but that I believed it nevertheless. Cue the usual questions about voices and visions, of which I was able to truthfully say there are none.

Either way, she was extremely concerned about my levels of depression. I laughed (if one can call such a hollow, cynical sound ‘laughter’) and said that this was nothing. I know how bad it gets, and this isn’t it – even though it’s heading distinctly in that direction, and has been for weeks. Christine said that in a sense this was good – might I be able to ‘get it in time’, she wondered, if I wasn’t yet at rock bottom? ¬†I shook my head. “By the time it’s got to this stage, it’s still gone too far to prevent it from getting to its worst. It creeps up on you so slowly and insidiously that when you get to ‘now’ – the realisation you’re spirally into the abyss – it’s virtually written in stone that the very worst of depressions will be upon you anon. Like a fixed variable in space-time.”

She kept asking me over and over again if I could “guarantee [my] safety”. I kept trying to make non-committal responses, but she wouldn’t let it drop. Eventually I said something along the lines of expecting to be alive at the time of our next appointment. She accepted that, but added that she wasn’t just¬†concerned about my trying to top myself; she was also worried that I’d engage in more self-harm, and this time actually succeed in doing myself some proper damage. I stated that I couldn’t guarantee¬†I wouldn’t do anything of that nature, but that I thought it was highly unlikely. As I told her, you need at least some mental vigour to engage in self-injury, and with each passing day I have less and less of such commodities available. Depression sucks out your very soul.

Christine nodded, but kept prattling on that my safety was the most important thing. Meh. Fuck my safety. Don’t fuck my safety. I don’t care either way. I was just glad that she let me leave without a shiteist¬†crisis team assessment.

She wants me back in two weeks rather than the usual month. In the meantime, I am to contact her urgently if things get notably worse or if I’m running helium cannisters through price-comparison websites again. I said, “I know you always say I can contact you, but can I actually¬†do so? Do you mean it?”

She seemed surprised by the question, and emphatically told me without breaking eye contact (which was odd, because I’d spent the entire appointment trying to avoiding looking at her – mental health professionals love it when you don’t engage in eye contact; it’s always splattered over your notes) that of course¬†she meant it, that she wouldn’t have offered it had she not, and indeed that she wanted¬†me to contact her if things get worse. ‘Get worse’ is a stupid phrase in context – of course¬†things will ‘get worse’. But I think she means ‘really¬†bad’.

I might take her up on it, assuming I can get out of bed.

End of terrible post, and of pathetic pity-party. Can’t be bothered to proof-read, for which you have my apologies. Love to all. xxx

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¬†clich√©d almost to the point of vulgarity, but the thing is, it¬†is¬†confessional for me.

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

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

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

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

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

Just random thoughts, really.

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

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Any Thoughts on Depakote or Lithium? ***¬°Advice Please!***

Saw NewVCB last Wednesday morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Futility

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

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

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

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

Odd sense of déjà vu.

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

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

Much love

Pan ‚̧ xxx

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What Depression Feels Like

Cue ornate, wanky, over-(and yet sub-)literary prose. I don’t know how to express this but in metaphor.

I’m standing in a dark room, surrounded utterly by blackness, inhaling nothing but a graveyard silence. The room is entirely devoid of nigh on anything to stir the senses – apart from two doors. In front of me, barely visible due to distance and darkness, is a light door. It seems impenetrable and unreachable. Behind me is a dark door. I cannot see it from my perspective, yet somehow I know it’s there – and I know it is far, far closer than its lighter, foreign counterpart.

I am alone. Or so I think, at first. But as my despair grows, It joins me. At first, Its creeping black tentacles stroke and caress my neck, as if luring me into acceptance. But as the grasp of Its tentacles grows, It begins to tighten Its now-malicious hold on me. I choke, without making a noise. I suffocate, drown, all but die in Its arms.

I am powerless to resist; Its despair intoxicates and fills me. Nothing else in the entire universe exists but me and It. It silently calls me, surreptitiously pulls me, towards the dark door.

It promises, silently still, that if I surrender and succumb to it completely, that my reward is Nothing. A release from my dark, tormented prison into Nothingness. Going towards the light door is not an option – but progression towards the dark carries with it this alluring vow of escape.

I let It take me. I am carried hopelessly, yet paradoxically hopefully, further into Its all-consuming and inevitable lair.

Yet somehow, I am falling now. The room has become horizontal, and I fall into an abyss that drags me further away from the light door. Please, I beg silently. Let me fall through the dark door now. I cannot endure this falling agony for another second.

It laughs – silently, but cruelly. Oh no, It tells me, Its delicious satisfaction palpable. Oh no. You shall fall forever, and experience every horrible, unbearable moment.

I want it – I will it – to be wrong. I have fallen before, I know, and I have been rescued, risen, from my unendurable pain. But I am utterly in Its thrall now. Rationality is irrational. Logic is illogical. I cannot rise this time, no matter what.

My only possible escape is the Nothing – but yet, I fall still, and the dark door is as unobtainable as the light door, as unobtainable as joy, success and hope. I hear the silent, scornful laugh again. Nothing, contentment – they are both inaccessible to you now, It goads.

So I am trapped. Eternally, perpetually, in this infernal, darkness of falling, sinking, drowning, suffocating. Forever. No hope, no joy, no release.

Only all-encompassing despair and misery, torment and grief, pain and horror, blackness and a dark, un-wadeable, treacled quicksand.

There is no chance of escape.

And yet, there is. For now, the sun shines. But the darkness creeps insidiously, and one can never allow oneself to be complacent.

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