The Inevitable 'Goodbye' Post

Not Dead, Just Sleeping…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am not this person any more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, for now at least, that’s enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded pointlessly.

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

I nodded pointlessly again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh really? I mean, seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Apropos of Nothing

Writing is a lonely profession (if indeed it can ever be turned into a ‘profession’). But that loneliness is somehow comforting in its own paced-ness, in its ability to protect one from the perils of the outside (some would say ‘real’) world. The pursuit, whilst thoroughly without guarantees and assurances, is still a safe one – published or not, you still have the pleasure of composition, and of knowing, eventually, that you have completed something that at least has potential, if to no one else but to you.

What this amounts to is this. I’m writing a book. I’m not wont to discuss it in detail on a public forum like this blog, but it is going to be mental health related. Many of you have inexplicably but kindly asked me if I would turn this very blog into a book, but that isn’t my plan at this stage, for two key reasons. One is the simple fact that the intended book’s concept is already very clear in my mind, and I don’t want to deviate from that while it’s so vivid. The second is that going through everything written here – post by post, word by almost-endless word – is one hell of a task to take on, especially when my mental health is still relatively fragile. I’d like to maybe do it some day, but not now. Sorry ūüė¶

Also, you see, in doing all the factual writing of late that I have – here, and in other arenas – I realised that I hadn’t done any creative¬†writing since…fuck, I don’t know. Since I was at school? Maybe even since my GCSEs? That’s a horrible realisation, to know that I’ve neglected a passion of mine for such a disgustingly long period. I used to love writing fiction, and I’ve only recently realised that I miss it.

So, The Book will be a fictional narrative. Whether it’ll turn out to be a novel, a novella or a short (as if!) story, I don’t yet know, but I don’t really mind whatever the case may be. I also don’t really care if anyone is willing to publish it or not; I mean, it would be lovely if someone did, that much is self-evident – but I’m doing primarily for my own pleasure. I had genuinely forgotten what escapism and what joy comes from such a simple pass time, and I’m revelling in it at the minute.

So I haven’t written much here this week, since the idea for The Book came to me. It isn’t just¬†The Book that is keeping me away, though the other factors are still within the literary realm – I’ve been reading voraciously, planning a few pieces of non-fictional writing, and even the odd non-writing bit of so-called creativity too.

I just thought I should post something, drivelsome and dull as this is, to show you that I’m still alive, and that I’m doing relatively well. Since I cut back on the Seroquel, I haven’t been sleeping well (unsurprisingly) and have had to resort to take Zopiclone on many nights. The new neighbours and their screamer are not assisting in my quest for slumber (they keep the strangest hours, especially for a family, that I’ve ever encountered. They arrive home, child in tow, about 11.30pm, then proceed to talk half the night on the phone, child still in tow. What the fuck?). However, beyond that, I’m OK. Things aren’t amazing, and I might be slightly depressed – but I’m managing, and given everything that’s happened over the last three years, at the moment I really think that that’s good enough.

And it is¬†three years. It’s just over three years now since I left my own little office for the last time. I noted above that writing is lonely, and it is. But having your own office,¬†glamorous¬†as it may sound, is¬†lonely¬†too, yet it doesn’t have any of the advantages that working from a laptop on your own sofa does. Nonetheless, I miss it in some ways: at least the people who worked in the offices bordering mine were, generally, good people, and were I feeling a bit lost, I could normally wander in next door and have a quick chat with them, before returning to my own quiet domain. I can’t do that when I’m sitting here typing all day.

To that end, as well as writing The Book, I’m applying for a voluntary job. I think I might have mentioned this before, but I’m finally going to do it, and whilst I’m extremely nervous, I’m also quite excited about its potential as well. I haven’t put in the application yet, but I plan to this week…and then we’ll see. At present, I’m only going to offer the organisation a few hours a week, but for the type of position I’m hoping to get, I suspect that for the moment that’s more than adequate. If not, and if it works out, and if I even get it¬†for that matter, I might be willing to increase the hours a little bit further down the line.

I don’t know why any of you like this blog, but since some apparently do (thank you!), please be assured that none of this means I’m winding it down or anything. I’m trying to plan the final posts on Paul, and a few other bits and pieces, so you can’t get rid of me that easily ūüôā I just won’t promise that I’ll post once a week or more, as I usually try to do. We’ll see how it goes. But Confessions¬†will remain, so worry not ūüôā This is very far from ‘goodbye’; it’s simply a boring “here’s where I’m at right now” update.

What else? The Everythinger is gone (YAY!), I’m seeing Christine on Monday, NewVCB at the start of September, and I’m probably going to re-contact Nexus some time next month to re-embark on therapy. Part of me dreads that for what I assume are obvious reasons, but mostly I feel reassured and hopeful about the potential of it, given how useful my last course with Paul was. I’m back into something of a routine now that both Aunt of Evil and The Everythinger are gone, A seems a little less stressed at work than he had been, and I’m relieved that both Daniel and CVM are both alive and well and that the stupid riots in England appear to be over.

And that’s about it really. That’s what’s been happening in Pan’s world of late. I hope your existence has been more interesting but at least equally stable, and that you’re all well and happy ūüôā

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