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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

Resuming Psychotherapy – Paul: The Catch-Up Sessions

So. I mentioned at the end of my post¬†the other week¬†that I was going to see Paul that evening. I know I’d brought up that fact¬†somewhere¬†before then, but I’m not sure if it was on this blog or elsewhere. Either way, anybody who is a regular reader will probably be aware that Christine, my CPN, and NewVCB, my psychiatrist – not to mention A, and in something of a bizarre juxtaposition, my mother – had been nagging and nagging and nagging me to contact Nexus to follow-up my resumed contact with the organisation at the¬†end of September.

To that end, I emailed Nice Lady That Works for Nexus shortly after Maisie’s funeral (the ‘summary’ ((scare quotes because I don’t¬†do¬†‘summaries’)) of that is coming, fear not). I’ve always wondered why Nice Lady had a tendency to respond very promptly when I emailed her outside of normal business hours; OK, so¬†I¬†religiously checked and, if necessary, responded to my work emails at 3am, but I’m not exactly normal. Anyway, it seems that it’s because they’re open later on some days of the week to¬†accommodate¬†people that, you know…actually¬†work.

Nice Lady responded to my email by stating that she had put me on the list for “ongoing therapy” with Paul, inferring that a regular slot for same had not yet come up. That seems a little odd to me given that nearly four months had elapsed between my having contacted the organisation about a re-commencement of contact and my later follow-up, since the maximum amount of time allowed for Nexus counselling is six months – but it’s theoretically possible, to be fair. Either way, I didn’t really mind, and in any case it doesn’t matter; she offered me a meeting with Paul to discuss my “present circumstances” for the Tuesday evening. I confirmed that I would attend. It turned out that I saw him twice in the end – the second meeting being exactly a week later – but for the sake of this post I’m going to mash them together. Mainly because I can’t remember what happened in each, rather than the sessions themselves being inherently faulty.

On the afternoon of the first session, I sat in the house in growing discomfiture. I really did not want to go to the appointment, in the everyday, sort of micro sense. Of course, in contrast, I did want to go in a wider, macro sense; therapy helped me before, and things have definitely gone downhill since I left it last summer. The latter compelled me not to call (or, more likely, email) Nice Lady to advise her that I would not be attending, and sheer bloody will-power stopped me ingesting the beautiful anodyne properties of a Diazpeam, my rationale being that if I did not get the dosage exactly right, that I would not be able to converse in any meaningful measure.

I left the house stupidly early, in light of the traditional difficulties of finding a parking space that attending Nexus creates. I suspected that, at this time (6pm or something), things would be a lot quieter – but were they¬†fuck. For once, as I drove around and around for ages,¬†I thanked the twisted cosmos for granting me my time-keeping neurosis. It’s funny; I used to be late for everything. Now it’s rare for me to be anything¬†less¬†than 20 minutes early. I’d say I look forward to seeing how this pans out at my own funeral, but since I’ll be dead I’ll not be seeing too much of it, will I?

Anyway, I found a space. Eventually. I still had a few minutes to kill so I dicked about on my phone, hoping for a meteorite storm or nuclear bomb or some such to suddenly descend on my little town. No such force majeurs came to pass, however, so five minutes prior to the allocated appointment time, I took a deep breath, and got out of the car.

As I waited at the door of the Institute for someone to buzz me in, I wondered what in the name of actual fuck I was going to say to Paul. How did I greet him – this man who knew all my deepest, darkest secrets? How did I justify my return to him (aside from allusions to the badgering persistently quipped out by my psychiatric team)? How could I be sure that I could re-develop our erstwhile rapport?

When I entered, both he and Nice Lady were standing at the reception desk. I was horrified to feel the need to introduce myself; my hair has changed since I last saw them, but beyond that, there was no reason for them not to recognise me. Unless they’d just¬†forgotten.

I don’t know why that surprises me, as I sit here considering the incident retrospectively. I am¬†eminently¬†forgettable. I might well have a not-entirely-pleasant history, but¬†everyone¬†Paul (or any other Nexus therapist) sees is in that boat. It’s what keeps him (them) in work.

Whatever the case, introduce myself I did. When Nice Lady sort of nodded, I went to go to the (hidden) waiting room in anticipation of Paul’s readiness. There sat a young woman. She turned to look at the disturbance I’d created in her quiet world, and our eyes met for a split second. I was struck,¬†again, by how such a simple, brief action can engender a whole barrage of thoughts and questions and assumptions in one’s mind. Yet despite our brief unity, I felt disgusted that by seeing her face, I’d somehow intruded upon her darkest moments and, by dent of that, her privacy.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Paul suddenly piped up that “we [could] go in now, Pandora,” so I withdrew from the room, mere seconds after entering it, tripping over something in my rush to free the girl of my rotund self, thus making an even bigger arsehole of myself.

Well. 1,200 words and the session hasn’t even began yet. Is that a record even for me?

It was a different room from the one we’d spent most of our time in during our last stint of meetings together. As if I weren’t unsettled enough, that unnerved me a fair bit. I have no idea why, as I had been in the room at least once in the past – and anyway, I hadn’t even been in the Nexus building in something like nine months, so surely it was¬†all¬†due to be new to me again?

I spent the next 50 minutes garrulously rambling at Paul about fuck knows what, but here’s my best attempt at making some vague coherence of that.

So, how had things been since our last meeting, the man himself queried?

“Things have been…eventful,” I began, trying to sate my agitation by assuming the sardonic tilt of my entire body to which I am used to showing the outside world. I failed.

“Eventful,” I repeated wistfully, before launching into a brief monologue on just how¬†things had been ‘eventful’. “Oddly enough, just last week [Paedo]’s wife dropped dead. A while back, the cat was killed. I took up the [now co-]editorship of a popular mental health blog. I won a major award for my own blog then had a mini-breakdown. I’ve started writing more seriously – I’ve had professional pieces in One in Four¬†and a major non-mentalist magazine. Though the latter is still about being mental, mind. The fucking house was burgled again. Oh, and I started taking a mood stabiliser on top of Quetiapine and Venlafaxine.” The one thing I completely forgot to mention was that my diagnosis – primarily borderline personality disorder when I last saw Paul – has changed. Not that it really matters, I suppose, since Paul is a fully paid-up member of the “EVERYTHING ABOUT PSYCHIATRY IS EVIL!!!!!1!!!eleven!!!11!15932!! GAAAAHHHHH!11!14!!seventeen!!!!” lobby. Indeed, when I mentioned the Lamotrigine, I noticed his characteristic eye-roll, however much he may (or indeed may not) have fought to suppress it.

When I’d finally shut my overactive gob, he sat silently for a minute, regarding me with a nebulous, enigmatic look that I eventually interpreted as curiosity.

I didn’t want to be the one to break the resultant silence, but neither could I meet such a piercing gaze. An old trait of mine when I’m nervous (or tired) is to play with a strand of my hair. I twirl it between my index and middle fingers, then release via a stroke of my thumb. Involuntarily – or at least unconsciously – said behaviour began again at this juncture, whilst my eyes darted from one form of nothing to another. The cheap non-descript carpet, the cracks in the walls, the blandness of the paint – any of it was better than returning his look.

“Why are you back?” he finally queried.

I took this as an accusation that I shouldn’t be back, even though it of course transpired in the course of the discussion that this was not the case. I didn’t admit this, however, and instead – after thinking for a bit – told him that I was sick of being stuck in this cyclical rut of madness. “I still can’t work. Being able to deal with people, losing my anxiety around them – that’s my goal. I believe that I was starting to get to that point when I left therapy with you before, but then it all went to shit.”

He said, “I remember telling you before that in an ideal world, we’d be working together for at least two years.”

I nodded in recollection. “Six months was a good start, but I need to build on that. Get things out of my system, work them out in my mind, delve deep for resolution. I can’t do it alone, and whilst a year isn’t ideal, it’s a damn sight better than nothing.”

In fact, in marked contrast to a lot of what I’ve written here before, I defended C. Not because C didn’t ultimately behave like a dickhead, but because whilst we were on good terms, I had at least done some groundwork with him. Would I have been able to walk straight into Nexus and own up to everything, had I not at least been able to raise it somewhere first? I doubt it.

“OK,” Paul said. “So you found that useful. Did you find our work together helpful, then?”

“Of course not,” I laughed with nervous sarcasm. “That’s why I’m back.”

He…I don’t know, he sort of guffawed at that. We then had a discussion surrounding the previous bout of therapy, concluding that part of its success had been that it gave me a ‘safe’ place in which to admit to my history of abuse, a circumstance in which that could be properly ‘contained’, which it hadn’t been when it was happening. A place where I was believed¬†and not judged, with someone who was beginning to get past my endless intellectual prevaricating to the point where I might have felt a modicum of compassion for my former self. Remember the baby, for example?

Randomly, then, Paul said, “you told me earlier that things had been ‘eventful’.”

“Yes..?”

“The first three points. You noted that your aunt and cat died with a certain nonchalence, yet when you spoke of the award yon won, you almost spat the words out.”

“Did I?” I replied askance.

He raised his eyebrows in confirmation, forcing me to think back on what I’d said – or, more specifically, how¬†I’d said it. I recalled that I had counted Maisie and Ms Cat’s demises off on my fingers, reducing them to mere footnotes of my life, though that is not¬†how I saw either of the events in question. But of particular surprise was that I spoke of the award in tones of virtual disgust? How could that be?

“I was immensely¬†grateful¬†for and touched by that award,” I told him, puzzled.

He rescued me. “I didn’t think that you weren’t, but your tone suggested to me that…you know, death happens. It sucks, but it’s bad, and only bad things happen to you, right? The notion of something positive befalling you, particularly on a scale outside your¬†immediate¬†social circle, is alien territory.”

“I’ve won awards before,” I mused quietly, still avoiding his gaze (why does he stare so fucking intently? What is¬†it with therapists and that…that device, that stupid, ugly, staring device, that¬†they always employ?!). “This departed only in scale from them, I suppose, but what¬†a scale it was. A ceremony, public recognition and a beautiful, shiny trophy.”

“You’re pleased with yourself,” he observed.

“Isn’t that oxymoronic? A minute ago you were suggesting that I was at best perplexed, at worst repelled, by it.”

“‘Perplexed’, yes, but not ‘repelled’. I think that you’re pleased you won it, but you still struggle with the ‘why’ behind that success.”

I certainly couldn’t argue with that analysis. How many times have I asked the following question of you, readers: “why do you like this blog?” On many occasions. And whilst I understand (and greatly appreciate) the responses you’ve given, I don’t – as Paul put it – understand the ‘whys’ of them.

He asked me a few more questions about it, and I answered honestly, as I had done with Christine (I can’t find any review of that appointment here. That was something of a fail. I can’t remember much about it now, but suffice to say she was thrilled to hear I’d won, and like Paul asked me lots of questions about it. That means that within about three seconds they can have gone from Mind’s website to here and read about themselves from my twisted perspective, which ((especially in light of l’affaire Little Feet)) is not entirely desirable. But anyway, if either of you are reading this, hello! I actually do like you both, if it’s any consolation in lieu of the general misery I spout here. I’m sorry if you dislike your¬†sobriquets, but I had to anonymise you somehow).

Discussion moved on to Paedo – initially in the context of Maisie’s death, though we did discuss more specifics in the second appointment I’m coalescecently (spot the made-up adverb)¬†detailing here. Since I have as yet failed to discuss the funeral on this blog, there’s going to be a spoiler here, and this is it. As we were leaving Hotel California that evening, I hugged¬†Paedo – entirely of my own volition. So much of my own volition, in fact, that Paedo seemed surprised by the gesture.

Paul asked me why I had done this.

“Two reasons: one calculated, one…well, not calculated. In the first instance, I’d hugged most of my cousins and other assorted personnel, and it would have looked out of place had I not engaged in the same practice with him,” I blathered. “The second reason was that, whatever he’s done, the poor sod had just buried his wife of over 50 fucking years.”

“OK,” he replied in a very definite tone. “Fuck the first reason, that’s a load of bullshit [I don’t concur, but whatever]. The second – that’s a very human act. That’s normal¬†in the aftermath of a death, to extend your humanity to grieving individuals, and you’re far more human than you give yourself credit for. But was what he did to you human?”

“Well, the biochemistry of our species dictates that…”

“You know what I mean,” he interrupted witheringly.

I shrugged. “No. I suppose that it wasn’t¬†particularly human.”

***Pointless Tangent(s) Warning – Feel Free to Ignore the Next Paragraph***

[This is an issue I have. ‘Human’, to me, is a biological term, referring¬†to the last surviving species of the homo¬†genus. ‘Humanity’, even in what others regard the “emotional” sense, is, again to me, a reference back to the race of humankind. The traits to which Paul was referring derive from personhood, the qualities of a person¬†(er…obviously, Pan). I think that it’s quite possible to be a human without being a person (and, arguably, vice versa: it’s very easy to anthropomorphise animals); any of you that have ever been on either side of the abortion debate will be familiar with this position, but it’s not confined solely to that arena. This isn’t the time to get into any of that, though, so I’ll say that no, what Paedo did (What Paedo Did. It sounds like a paedophilic version of What Katy Did –¬†though, repugnant as Paedo’s behaviour may have been, the retelling of it is ((hopefully)) nowhere near as boring as the reading Katy’s “adventures” is)¬†wasn’t particularly personable. Call me an abuser of the English language, or a pedant, or whatever if you will].

***End of Pointless Tangent(s)***

***Start of Possible Triggers!***

For some reason, he brought up (a) the gang rape, (b) the related incident wherein someone threatened to cut off my thumb, and (c) the occasion on which I thought I was choking to death.

***Probable End of Possible Triggers, and Hopeful End of Stupid Bolded and Asterisked  Warning Things!***

He was making the point that these three incidents, at least in part, were ones that I remembered clearly. He also alluded to the fact I’d remembered other ostensibly silly details well too.

“But you don’t recall all¬†minutiae¬†of the abuse even now?” he checked.

“No.”

And, lo! A rearrangement of that therapeutic manta and how does that make you feel?¬†came to pass. He said, “how do you feel about the lack of those memories now?”

Once more, I fixated my eyes upon the carpet. “Don’t know,” I mumbled onto my chest, like some sort of surly teenager.

“No False Memory Syndrome, no Munchausen’s Disorder?”

“Well, yeah, obviously. That doesn’t even require a question mark.”

“It’s still better to believe that you’re a liar rather than someone who went through this sadistic abuse.”

“I suppose so. What of it?”

“I’m just trying to gauge where you’re at psychologically. But for what it’s worth, and you probably know this, the timeline of an abused kid isn’t linear. Everything becomes so defragmented that the child has to ‘put together’ bits and pieces of memories, so what happens is – at least in your case – you get a general sense of what happened without it all being eidetic or palpable. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to hideous circumstances, and it means you’re not¬†a liar or a faker. I think that has to be one of our goals in this process – to get you to really believe¬†that heinous things were done to you. Or, at least, to dramatically curtail the strength and frequency of your doubts about it all.”

That seemed reasonable. ‘Reasonable’ in the sense of ‘acceptable’, rather than “yes, I think that’s perfectly obtainable,” so obdurate can my beliefs in my supposed falsifications be at times. However, in a discussion around the abuse that followed the above, I actually used the word ‘rape’ several times. In fact, I think I might even have said ‘gang rape’ at one point. I really couldn’t do that when I first met Paul. I could barely even say it to A. Does this denote progress? That the work I’ve hitherto done with Paul has had some lasting¬†psychological¬†impact, despite the fact my life’s not exactly a barrel of laughs?

There was a discussion of self-harm, felicitously catalysed by Paul’s opinion that “every scar on [my] body is inflicted by [Paedo]” (which belies the fact that I used to fall in the playground every day at primary school, despite the fact that on such occasions Paedo was, usually, over 30 miles away – but I’ll let that slide). I admitted to having tried to slit my wrists since I’d last seen him; I didn’t raise it here because it was an irrelevance, an idiotic act done on the spur of the moment to see how far I could go (this was the week before Maisie’s death). The intent was not suicidal, but borne out of an existential boredom – and beyond it, I’ve engaged in very little self-injury since I last saw Paul, if any at all.

So, then, Maisie’s death. Would it have been better had it been Paedo that died? Or would that have been¬†worse?

“Who knows?” I shrugged. “I’m ambivalent towards the man, so my perception is that I’d probably not give a shit – but the mind’s a curious phenomenon, isn’t it? It could so happen that when he croaks it – and we think he will soon, given his formerly symbiotic relationship with my aunt – I regret the ‘words left unsaid’ or something twattish like that, and it screws me up a little more. I think it unlikely, but it’s possible. It’s hard to predict.”

Paul nodded thoughtfully at my assessment, whilst I remembered something that had previously been said on this blog.

I wrote in a recent post about how Maisie had always, for reasons seeminlgy unknown, had a grudge against her daughter Sarah. In the comments section, the very lovely CimmerianInk postulated this hypothesis on that relationship:

I have seen in past stories that if a daughter is being abused by her father, if the mother is more concerned with appearances etc., she ends up hating the daughter or at least they end up having a strained relationship with a lot of complicated layers. So, I wonder if Paedo ever did anything to Sarah. (I’m assuming that I remember correctly and Sarah was at home all her life with him).

You did remember correctly, CI. I actually think this is a very possible scenario, and it would explain a lot.

A brief piece of context: years ago, A and I were at the McFaul’s for some reason, and had been drinking. I became ensconced in the dining area with my mother and Sarah, presumably as that was the only room in the house in which one was allowed to smoke. Anyhow, the alcohol must have in some way ignited a spark of bitterness in me, because – in talking about my mental illness – I said something like, “you know, many people go doolally because they were sexually abused.” If I recall correctly, I raised my eyebrows at the two of them in a gesture of smug fuck you.

Sarah, without missing a beat, and without any hint of horror or surprise in her voice, replied, “there’s something there, isn’t there?”, at which point I realised my mistake in even raising the issue and wisely changed the subject.

I have often wondered in passing about her¬†blas√©¬†attitude to my loaded comment. A and I had already discussed the possibility that Paedo may have abused her too (she was the only daughter, if that’s even relevant in paedophilia), but always in the context of “what if?” rather than in terms of Maisie’s relentlessly negative attitude towards her. But CI’s comment seemed to really ‘fit’ the situation. I told Paul about it.

Essentially, he concurred that this was a distinct possibility. He said, “she didn’t spot what was under her nose when all of this was happening to you. How could she not¬†have done so? You would have walked strangely, you would have been withdrawn, you may even have been dirty and bleeding. And your aunt just didn’t notice? Or, could it be, that she didn’t want¬†to notice – possibly, as your friend says, because she’s seen it all before?”

I felt a chill run down my spine.

“I feel uncomfortable with the notion that my aunt was somehow complicit in her husband’s behaviour,” I said carefully.

“Don’t you think they all¬†were? Everyone in that house?”

“Well…not consciously…”

“Maybe not. It could have been entirely¬†unwitting [though I have to say, he sounded distinctly uncertain about this]. But a child¬†doesn’t know that. All she¬†knows is that nobody’s protecting her from these horrors.”

“Well, OK – but if my cousin was abused, would my aunt not have noticed all the factors to which you’ve alluded in her? I know she wasn’t a perfect woman, but even I can’t believe she’d willingly let her kid be raped by anyone, never mind its father.”

He was evidently going to say something like, “you’d be surprised” – and actually, I wouldn’t have been, because I’ve heard of many mothers deliberately, and thus unforgivably, overlooking these things – but he thought better of it. As he himself would agree, he didn’t know Maisie, so could not know what she was or wasn’t capable of.

“Well, they could have been ostensibly unaware. The evidence does seem to support that the mother had an inkling, if her daughter was¬†being hurt, but it may not have been conscious. It’s clear from what you said though that she resented [Sarah] greatly, and what you sometimes see is a parent somehow ‘knowing’ what’s going on, and then transferring their disgust and rage onto the child, under the almost psychotic justification that that child has ‘seduced’ their spouse or something. It’s actually not uncommon.”

It’s a frightening idea, but I have to say – it would explain a lot¬†of the problems that have been inherent in Hotel California throughout my living memory.

Further conversations arose, but were not particularly consequential. I felt that I’d rambled like a fucking eejit throughout both sessions, but Paul assured me that my discourse had enabled him to further ascertain the current nature of my psychology. He thinks that, although for the most part I’m able to suppress it in every day life (not that he thinks that that’s a good thing), there is still a lot of raw, visceral, deep hurt inside me.

Indeed, that was probably the image I projected: even just being¬†in Nexus made me feel…I don’t know what the word is. Headfucked. Filled with ominous dread. Anxious. Not scared, but…well, more than¬†apprehensive. All of those things, but much more besides. I did admit this to him when he asked about it.

He said that it actually must have taken “a hell of a lot” of courage to make myself go there that day, at which point I intimated to him that I had seriously considered calling the meeting off.

“But you didn’t,” he (rather pointlessly) noted. “Don’t you think that’s courageous? That you want to fight this shit?”

I mulled that over for a few minutes – and honestly, readers, I think that it was. I felt a small slither of pride in myself for a few teeny-weeny seconds.

Our agreed goal, apart from that of trying to believe myself about the abuse, is to overcome my constant need to intellectualise and rationalise, thus continuing to develop empathy and compassion for Aurora/child me. He thinks that, at an intellectual level, I sympathise¬†with her – but that, apparently, is quite a different thing. He is of the view that should this be successful, Aurora “will stop ruining [my] life, to use what would no doubt be [my] parlance.”

His parting line, before goodbyes, was that he’s “really, really¬†looking forward to working with [me] again.” Although I was a bit of a wreck following the first meeting, I was at least reassured by the enthusiastic tone and sentiment of this final statement.

We’ll see. My psychotherapy with Paul should recommence properly in three to four weeks, which will certainly make for some interesting times ahead – but I know I’m with the right person for the job.

PS. I deleted that stupid ‘Fail’ post. You know I’m alive now, right?

Hypomanic Hogwash (and Seeing the CPN)

Having finished my posts on the first stint of therapy that I had with Paul, I’ve been left feeling surprisingly disenfranchised as regards my writing here. By that I mean that I have no idea whatsoever about what I should write. I mean, when I hadn’t finished the stuff on Paul, I procrastinated and procrastinated, and avoided having to tackle those posts by thinking of other inane stuff to throw at these pages. Now, in stark contrast, I can think of nothing. This is what might be known as a ‘fail’.

So, then. Let’s go with an obligatory ‘I had an appointment’ post. This one was with Christine, my CPN, on Tuesday.

The weekend had been an odd one. If you follow me on Twitter, on Friday night you might have seen why. I was behaving in a completely out-of-character fashion: gushing about how much I loved everyone, ravingly extolling the virtues of random Babylon 5 YouTube videos to people whose names I failed to correctly spell, wittering on (admittedly with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) about how fucking awesome I supposedly was, asking people to participate in C(o)untdown contests (what the fuck?!) and generally going about screaming (or whatever the equivalent is on Twitter) “WAH!” and “WOOOOO!” and suchlike. What. A. Freak.

Saturday was better, but marginally so. The in-laws, who are selling their house, were throwing a party – ostensibly for no reason, but it felt like a ‘goodbye to Nice House in Shite Town’ kind of event (though, that said, as far as I know there have been no offers or any meaningful inquiries about the sale). Anyway, after visiting A’s father and step-mother who live relatively close to his mother and step-father, off we headed to the abode of the latter. And, although I was conscious enough of how mental I’d been behaving on Friday night and sought to curb the obvious signs of same on Saturday, I generally behaved like a twat then too. My sister-in-law, very drunk at one stage, welcomed what she appeared to see as my enthusiasm (ha!), as my mother-in-law seemed to do also. My own mother, however, was less impressed. (I forget the expression she used, but it was probably something along the lines of “catch yourself on,” a Northern Irish colloquialism that I have always loathed due to the unavoidable fact that it makes absolutely no sense in terms of syntax).

At one point my mother particularly riled me by throwing a blithe back-handed insult in my general direction. I can’t be arsed to go into the specifics, but Clarissa has cogently written about her own mother’s infuriatingly similar behaviour here, so read that if you want to get a feel for what I’m on about. This remark ignited an underlying irritability, masked by my ostensibly great mood, and I called Mum up on it, but of course we ended up getting sucked into the usual pointless circle of blame: “I’m always to blame”, “No, I’m always to blame,” yadda yadda yadda. So rather than fight it out with her, I sat down silently beside her, then suddenly started telling her why Anthony Burgess had decided to write A Clockwork Orange. My mother eyed me with bewildered suspicion, and after listening to 10 minutes of myself rabbiting on, I felt compelled to join her. A Clockwork Orange is an incredible book – one of my favourites ever written – but seriously, what the fuck? My pseudo-scholarly analysis of the background leading up to it was one of the best examples of a personally acted-out randomness that I can remember since my school days with Daniel (one such recollection: my mother was out at golf one evening, so Daniel and I ended up playing the fools by wearing cushions on our head, grabbing an abandoned curtain pole, and running up and down the quiet street squeaking, “weeeeeeeeeeeeeee! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”, all whilst each holding one side of the pole. And that’s just one such example).

So yeah. I was mad. Someone’s going to come on here and ask if I had been drinking; well, that’s in the affirmative, but honestly – this was notlunacy fueled by alcohol consumption. If anything, knowing things were a bit weird, I was more measured in my imbibing that I otherwise might have been. And alcohol, even mixed with the current medications that I take, has not in and of itself ever affected me like this. Other people’s mileage may vary, but that is mine.

On Sunday and Monday, although I behaved apparently fairly normally, my brain was certainly hyper, and thoughts seemed to race through it faster than the speed of light. Until Monday evening, that is, when I promptly and suddenly fell about 80,000 figurative parsecs, and was paralysed by a deep – but mercifully brief – depression.

Essentially, the above tale characterised my meeting with Christine on Tuesday morning. She asked a lot of questions about my behaviour and mentality over the weekend, to the point where I was beginning to wonder if I was in some sort of bizarre Capgras situation wherein she’d been replaced by a GCHQ operative quizzing me about whatever act of criminality or terrorism they might like to pin on me (not really, by the way. That was a demonstrative hyperbole, not my actual thought process):

  • Had I been irritable (yes)
  • Had I been sleeping normally (no – if ‘normally’ means well, that is)
  • Had I slept at all (not to any meaningful extent – a couple of hours here and there maybe, were I blessed with a lucky night)
  • But had I not needed any extra sleep (apparently not – highly unusual)
  • What had my energy levels been like (jumping around the place like a twatting hyena on crack)
  • Had I dominated conversation (it varied from person to person, but in most cases I must have seemed like a self-obsessed bastardface – so yes)
  • Was I able to curb any compulsion to talk (no, fucking babbled endlessly on about every piece of meaningless minutiae pertaining to any given subject)
  • Had I been afflicted with racing thoughts (yes, to the point where it felt like a cognitive kaleidoscope was exploding over and over and over again in my head)

You get the picture. She had started her analysis by saying that it may be difficult to distinguish whether this wankery had been a simple good mood or an episode of hypomania, but as I answered the questions put to me one by sorry one, she noddingly came to the conclusion that it was, in all probability, the latter.

The distinction is one I find hard to make myself especially as, as Christine noted, a genuine good mood is a very, very rare thing in my life. On this occasion, however, my behaviour had been so horribly out of character that I had to agree with her final assessment: I was probably mental.

I got myself into quite a tizzy about it. Firstly, I tried to claim that it could not have been a hypomanic episode, because it only lasted a few days. She refuted that, stating predictably and reasonably enough that there was great variance in the duration of such moods across everyone afflicted by them.

OK then, but the last time I remember being hypomanic to any notable degree was – fuck me, it must have been 18 months or more ago. (There have been very minor instances of it since, in the sense that they’ve only lasted for one evening – and, curiously, seem to be the exclusive…er…privilege (ha) of my visually impaired friends. I cannot stop talking when I see them, and I’m restless and jump about and make too much noise and pace and flit from topic A to topic B to topic fucking Z). I’ve certainly had what I believe to be mixed episodes in that time – those have been a sorry staple of my life for quite a few years now, though I only realised they had a name after I started writing this blog – but hypomania has been relatively and curiously elusive (and, indeed, its big brother – the full-blown euphoric mania – has been more or less non-existent).

Given the good mood that accompanies episodes like this, I was, on Twitter, heard (seen?) to express a murmur of regret about the paucity of them in my life. However, La-Reve promptly and correctly reminded me that hypomania – whilst better than actual mania (which she has experienced, even if I haven’t) – is actually rather shit. This is true, for two key reasons. One: the higher you are, the lower you fall. Two: actions have consequences.

By the latter point, I mean that, when I had calmed down, I was absolutely and completely fucking affronted by my behaviour. I am not like that. I am known in certain company, that of my in-laws for example, as someone who enjoys a laugh and a bit of craic – but not as someone who jumps around elated, squealing in wide-eyed delight because someone suggested putting a fucking CD into the presiding hi-fi. I am, I hope, known on Twitter as someone who really does care about the people with whom she’s developed genuine friendships – but (I hope) not as someone who wastes bandwidth CAPITALISING EVERYTHING SHE FUCKING TYPES TO TRY TO MAKE THE POINT THAT SHE LOVES EVERYONE SHE’S EVER SPOKEN TO (BECAUSE, WHEEEEE, ISN’T SHE JUST SUCH AN AWESOME PERSON) EVEN MORE CLEARLY THAN SHE ALREADY HAD (or, in greater likelihood, quite the opposite).

So yes, I was (and am) embarrassed, and I told Christine so. She shrugged it off a little; whilst she feels that this was a hypomanic intrusion, she also thinks that I behaved as some more extroverted people might generally act as standard. The assertion irritated me slightly; it is, indubitably, true – but it is not true for me. If I were a natural extrovert, laden heavy with an arrogance that blinded me, then of course it wouldn’t matter – but I’m not. I’m me, and the person I was last weekend didn’t correspond to my self-perceptions at all. Other people’s norms do not matter in this equation.

Christine asked me when I was next seeing NewVCB, and I responded by stating that it was next week (Wednesday, I think). She appeared glad to hear this, and asked me if I was still OK with possibly going down the mood stabiliser path. I confirmed that I was, especially in light of all this shite. She acknowledged that she had some concern in that regard too.

We talked about Lithium versus Lamotragine. Reading between the lines, she seems to favour the former, but my preference is distinctly for the latter. Despite the contents of this post, as most of you will be aware, my symptoms – if I even have a form of manic depression at all – are very predominantly depressive. Secondarily, I’ve heard of people putting on weight on Lithium – and since that’s the primary reason that I want to reduce my Seroquel intake, it feels like taking it to mitigate Seroquel’s lost mood-altering effects could be a false economy. Lamotrogine, by contrast, seems to carry a greatly reduced risk of weight gain; indeed, I’ve read that in some cases it actually seems to reduce the bulge.

Not that I’m unwilling to experiment, mind you. It’s just that my first preference is for Lamotragine – if, for whatever reason, that fails to function as I hope, then I’d be ready to at least try Lithium.

At my mention of depression, Christine asked had that more generally characterised my mood since I’d last seen her. The answer to this was ‘not really’ – but, when a greater timeframe is applied to the question, it would have to become ‘yes’. In June, say, I was feeling pretty positive, and felt that my outstretched fingers were within mere inches of grasping the branch that is recovery. Now, although I don’t feel hideously awful, that former optimism has become a shattered reality, unobtainable and out of reach.

I exemplified it to her thus. A has observed over the last four or five months that things with me have been on a slow but definite downwards slope; apparently, at increasingly frequent intervals, I have exhibited a general aura of malaise and despondency, I have all but completely lost interest in leaving the house alone, and I’m really avoiding things that have traditionally given me pleasure. Although of course A cannot be said to be entirely objective – he is, after all, emotionally invested in me and my well-being – he sees things without the internal bias that the mind of a mental (or of anyone, in relation to themselves) inevitably creates. I might have said that I was plodding along with relative ease; his testimony highlights a more truthful version of reality.

Christine said that she would discuss what came up in our appointment with NewVCB before my meeting with the latter. She went on to ask about psychosis (nothing much), dissociation (nul points) and then, to my consternation, therapy. It wasn’t her fault that I was slightly dismayed – it’s Nexus’. I reapplied to see Paul again about five weeks ago, and although they confirmed I’d go back on his waiting list, I’ve heard absolutely nothing from them since. This is, as you might imagine, frustrating.

Christine asked if it were possible that my decline in spirits was related to the absence of therapy. Although I believe that I have melancholic (as opposed to reactive) depressive moods, it would be churlish of me not to entertain this as at least a possibility. Indeed, I think A has noticed a slight correlation, and I told her so.

It was therefore agreed that if I haven’t heard from Nexus by the end of this week (ie. tomorrow, since I’ve heard fuck all in the time between seeing Christine and now), that I would send a polite and brief follow-up email asking what the craic was. I kind of feel uncomfortable about doing so, as it seems to me that I’m making demands on the charity’s time – but in rational terms, I suppose a quick email is hardly the work of a servant of Satan. At the end of the day, I’d rather know what was going on than not.

The session (with Christine) drew to a close with a conversation about the awards ceremony, and my going to London at the end of the month in general. I shared with her that although this crappy blog being short-listed for something so prestigious, something so fucking big, is an honour of the like I cannot adequately hope to express, that I have a certain amount of anxiety about the ceremony itself. It’s a big deal; there will be a lot of people there, and many of them are household names (that said, that will probably mean damn all to A and me. We know nothing about most celebrity types). Let’s not forget that I have social anxiety on top of everything else!

She amiably and empathetically acknowledged this issue. “But,” she added, “you have as much right to be there as they do!”

Well, because of the appalling taste* of the short-listers, apparently I do ūüėČ [* Comment applies to this entry alone, and not the other four in my category, nor nominees in other categories either. The short-listers have great taste in some of those!]. I mean, yeah, I’m nervous – how could I not be? – but although I honestly don’t think I have a cat’s chance in hell of winning anything, I still see much opportunity in going to the event. So I’ll be shitting a brick, but I’m still excited.

Also, I seem to have organised a fuck of a lot of things during our sojourn, meaning that I’m not actually 100% sure if I can ‘do’ a mini-Mad Up or not ūüė¶ I’m finally meeting the wonderful bourach for the first time, I’m seeing my best mate Daniel, plus another lovely friend, CVM – and, when you take the ceremony into consideration, that leaves me with very little free time. Christine provided wise counsel on this; it is not a good idea to over-exert myself on the trip, especially when I’ll probably be an anxiety-ridden mess anyway. I’m not completely ruling it out, you understand, and even if I am, I’ll be back in England’s green and pleasant land in the not-too-distant future anyway. Let us see, yes? Please forgive me in advance, if it doesn’t happen? *begs like a puppy*

Christine and I parted after arranging another appointment just before A and I head off to the mainland. To her credit, she realises the magnitude in my life of this trip, and accordingly wants to offer extra support where she can. Not everything about NHS mental health services is completely shit.

Anyway, things are mostly back to normal here. I’m aggrieved that I’ve had so little time to hermit this week because of the aforementioned appointment, having to get new tyres on the car and, tomorrow, having to take the car to my mechanic in preparation for his MOT (‘his’ in that clause is not a typo. I do anthropomorphise my car). Next week is even worse, and I crave solitude and social tolerance of my agoraphobia. But I don’t seem to be even remotely manic, which is good, and I’m not overtly particularly depressed, which is even better.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary on Twitter this weekend, I want you all to beat me with a big stick. OK? OK. Good.

Good night, lovers. ‚̧ xxx

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.