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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

Perspectives from the Mentalist's Best Friend

Good afternoon, loveliest readers. Following the success of A’s series of guest posts for Confessions on daily life with a mental, my best friend Daniel asked if he could add some thoughts of his own. Clearly I jumped at the chance to have these insights, so I fired him off a couple of questions, which, along with his answers, now follow. Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who doesn’t love a bit of black humour?

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

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

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

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

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

What could I do about it? Not a lot. But I hope I was one of the things in her life that at least didn’t exacerbate the problem. Although thinking about it…curtain pole/teacher stalking/rollerblading late at night/”Shinobi”-wise – I totally did, didn’t I? [Indubitably. But in the most hilarious and uplifting way possible ๐Ÿ™‚]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But writing is a big job description.

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

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

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

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

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

This is probably where the future lies – but I know she’s already talking to editors, making strides and breaking into the wider arena. I think there is a lot to be hopeful about. It’s just about planning a strategy and working to it, and I’m learning that Pan doesn’t necessarily tend to let things she’s terrified of stop her from doing what she wants, if she really wants something (although she doubted herself…MIND awards anyone? She was petrified of attending the ceremony, yet she threw caution to the wind and just went). [Very true – I was genuinely terrified of attending the event (fucking anxiety), but knew it would be a travesty, both personally and professionally, not to. I’m so glad now that i forced myself to go, of course – but I managed to get through my agitation and enjoy the night, in part, with Daniel’s help ๐Ÿ™‚].

And that, boys and girls, is a rap.

Can I just add here that I am touched and flattered and have a warm fuzzy feeling inside after reading all that Dan has written here. I know he loves me, but it’s always nice to be reminded of it. I love him too ๐Ÿ™‚ With a friend like Dan, and a partner like A (whom, obviously, I also love very much), I really have much to be thankful for. You two rock. ~ Pan

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 faรงade, 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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

The Good, the Bad and the Facades – 2011 in Review Plus Other Garbage

I am not OK. I’m not. Well I suppose I’m not going to run out and top myself or something, but things aren’t exactly sweetness and sodding light (as if they ever are). There are reasons; it’s not just that some mentalist episode has jumped up on me and started to suffocate me (although I may be taking on more stress than a normal thanks to all that’s ongoing), but on the other hand, in part at least, it’s not just ‘normal’ life either. I really don’t want to get into the ins-and-outs of some of the issues, because some of them could have the potential to intrude on the privacy of a friend, and I am most indubitably not willing to do that. All I am willing to say is that what’s happened, by any measurable standard, it is horrible. Really, truly, in-fucking-utterably horrible.

It’s perverse though; the issue to which I’m referring doesn’t impact upon me directly; only via my friend. I actually feel guilty for giving so much of a shit, because it feels like I have no right to intrude upon my friend’s suffering. How dare I let it upset me so much, when it is not me that has to stare the horror of the situation right in its ghastly, twisted face? I’m a bystander to this, and whilst obviously it is natural to wish to support your friends in their hardest times, it also feels crude to feel so gutted for my own reasons.

Some of you will know what I’m talking about, but unless you are the specific friend to whom I’m referring above, please don’t give away any details if you wish to comment. I’m sure you can understand the privacy issues potentially involved, which has become especially important in light of the frankly appalling intrusion of some unscrupulous individuals who have already been harassing my friend.

There have been other issues surrounding the above that could seem trivial in isolation, but which have had the cumulative effect of helping to screw my mind to a 90ยฐ angle. It isn’t a secret that one of these stressors has been the recent disarray on This Week in Mentalists, but it’s not confined to that. For example, this blog was hacked! Cheeky fuckers! A pox on you you, you lifeless cunts. Shove your discounted Viagra up your (probably flaccid) urethral tubes and eat it out the other side!

But yeah, there’s been more even than that to Piss Pan Off, but it’s late; I’m tired and fed up, and if it’s worth writing about at all, it can wait until another day.

In any case, I don’t think I’ve by any means recovered from the slump I took earlier in December. Lamotrogine has made no fucking difference to my mood, though to be fair I’m still titrating up to a therapeutic dose, and NewVCB has advised that she doesn’t expect it to turn my life around even when that has been achieved.

So. I’m not OK. I saw Christine today, and got a laugh when she described me as “very stable at the moment”. She’s probably reading this (she knows about the Mind Award, so it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realise the New Media winner was me) – if so, hello! I’m not having a go at her, but at myself.

It’s this fucking facade that many of us who experiencing mental health issues will be familiar with. You can, perhaps, say that x happened or that your mood is fucked or that you’re being persecuted by something or other, but two things always occur, do they not: one is that, whilst you do not lie, you find adequate language to enable you to play down the potential seriousness of your situation. Secondly, unless you’re in the very worst depression or the most obvious psychosis – in which case, you’re highly unlikely to have bothered going to see your mental health workers anyway – you manage, whether consciously or otherwise, to simply seem less fucked up than you actually are.

Oh well. On another note, Daniel was home over Shitmas. We went out one evening with Mum and A, and, to Dan’s particular delight, had a lovely Indian (Dan’s partner Craig apparently refuses to eat most ethnic foods because their propensity to use certain spices and suchlike scares him. Get your finger out, man!). The next time we met, the two of us had the opportunity to spend some time alone, a circumstance which had not been realised for over a year beforehand. This might seem odd, but this was the first time he and I had conversed directly about the dark revelations contained within this bloggocks about Paedo.

We recalled that I did tell him some things when we were a teenager, but that the full story did not in any significant form emerge. Part of that was due to my dissociation surrounding much of it; part of it was just something I found inevitably difficult to spit out in any detail.

This conversation took place in a rather busy coffee shop, and we therefore spoke in euphemism and metaphor and other devices of linguistic avoidance. That isn’t a bad thing necessarily; it makes it easier for me to talk about it, to have the truth finally ‘out there’ with Dan. This is one of my ever-defining contradictory positions: I don’t believe in the power of language, only the power of linguistic intention. Yet despite this, using the terms “rape” or “sexual abuse” or whatever are nigh on impossible to verbally enunciate; I found that even when I was talking directly about this whole fetid little saga to Paul, my erstwhile therapist, as regular readers may recall.

Whatever the case, as observed, it was good to have the conversation and get it “out there”, face-to-face, between us. I know Dan doesn’t think this, nor do any of the real life personnel that read this vomit-on-a-screen (or even my online friends, for that matter!), but the cloak of the internet could mean that a lot of what I write about here could be tempted to only exist here. Being able to talk about it in person, then, however difficult it can be, has a sliver of catharsis to it.

Anyhow, Dan’s simple but enduring quote that day was, “I hope he [Paedo] dies.” This is a view often posited by A, yet I remain strangely ambivalent about the man’s future. He’s nothing to me.

Next…

Review!

I suppose I should do a review of the year. I usually do, after all. Find the links yourselves via the archives thing on the right if you care; if you have any sense, you don’t, but whatever floats your boat ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Good

  • The therapy with Paul in the first half of the year.
  • The referral to, and the emergence of, Christine (pity I was trying to off myself with helium at the time, but shit happens).
  • An ever improving relationship with my psychiatrist.
  • Venlafaxine at 300mg and the period in the middle of the year, in the wake of that prescription, where I actually felt vaguely like a normal member of the human race.
  • Meeting bourach and Carrie for the first time.
  • Nice shiny award, which I still don’t believe I deserved.
  • The incredible generosity I was afforded at both my birthday and Christmas (yes, even Shitmas!).
  • Professional writing contracts.
  • Editing TWIM (though the glossy shine has been sadly anti-polished off that by some of the decisions that have had to be made recently, and the inevitable upset that has caused).
  • The lovely trips on which A and I went together – Fuerteventura, the cottage, a couple of local-ish hotels.
  • The amazing people that continue to support and care about me via this blog and the related Twitter account.
  • A, my Mum and my wonderful friends – all of those friends, but especially Daniel.

The Bad

  • The unspecifics of everything else.

Meh

The thing is, there have been some genuinely wonderful things that have happened to me in 2011, and in terms of my mental health, I even had a(n all too) brief taste of that elusive, nebulous thing we call recovery. But sitting here, right now – and granted, I am not in a good headspace this evening, which probably makes this an inappropriate time to write, but I don’t really care – I can’t remember the year overall as a good one. Well, OK – I probably don’t know the meaning of the term “good year” anyway, but you know what I mean; everything’s relative.

If the truth be told, I don’t remember an awful lot of the past 12 months; most of it has passed in that dichotomous haze in which time moves simultaneously quickly, in retrospect, and slowly, in the moment. What I will say is that I am grateful for the good, and I’m grateful for the people. The rest of it I’ll be glad to see the bloody back of.

I hope you all had as wonderful a Christmas/Hanukkah/Pagan festival/general time to sit around and eat and drink/whatever as possible, and I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, happy and prosperous 2012. I know that’s an optimistic wish, but the sentiment at least is sincere.

Anyway, I have an article to edit the living fuck out of and I’m fucking wrecked, so I apologise for not proof-reading this and for the likely myriad of punctuation, grammar and other errors. The minimisation of these is not helped by the keyboard on which I am typing, given that my laptop decided to die a week ago ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So sorry. Anyway, take care and, again, all the best for the new year.

Love to all. x

EDIT: I almost forgot! I had an article in One in Four‘s winter edition, rounding up my favourite blogs. An addendum to the piece states that the links will be available on the magazine’s site; I can’t see it yet, but you might want to check this page at some point in the future if you’re interested. Or, you know, show your support for the publication and just buy the thing. Either way, if I regularly read your blog, you’re probably featured ๐Ÿ™‚ x

Absolutely Damn All Squared

I’m still in the land of the living. Or the existing, as you prefer. I know I haven’t written anything in what seems (for me) like ages, but there’s not a great deal to report.

I had written an entire post and when I went to upload it, my WP application crashed. So I won’t bother to recreate it; I’ll just make the basic points I was initially going to.

One: voting is still open, until midday next Saturday, in the TWIM awards; just click here. Thank you to those of you that voted for me, thank you: I genuinely appreciate it. However, in the interests of impartiality, I’ve disqualified myself so the votes won’t count – but thank you anyhow. I still don’t understand why you read or like this blog. But that you do genuinely touches me, so thank you.

Two: I probably won’t be writing here much until at least January; I’ll try to do my traditional “what happened this year” round-up, but I won’t promise. For one thing, I’m very stressed (and also disproportionately upset – I so need to get a fucking life) about something I can’t (at least yet) discuss here. More importantly, I have a major piece of professional writing deadlined for 2nd January, and of course that will take priority over my usual garbling bollocks for here. So I have, for once, a genuine reason not to crap on on Confessions, rather than my failure to post being attributable to anhedonia, avolition or laziness (though I must admit to the presence of the former two nevertheless).

Also, please note that I will not be doing anything TWIM-related until at least Tuesday. I’m even temporarily removing the relevant email account from my phone!

I haven’t been on Twitter for days (other than to tweet the odd article via third party apps, or to text a random observation or something), and probably won’t be for…well, some more days. If you’ve @mentioned or DMed me, I’m honestly not ignoring you and will catch up before too long ๐Ÿ™‚

Three: after seeing NewVCB on Wednesday, I am now taking 100mg of Lamotrigine. Unfortunately 50mg of this is in the morning, which doesn’t sit especially well with my daily Seroquel hangovers. On the latter, by the way, I am going to be a fat bitch for a good bit longer than anticipated because she NewVCB wants to increase my Lamotrigine dosage again in the new year, and isn’t keen on modifying two medications at the same time (which is fair enough).

Four: A and I are at my mother’s; we’ll spend Shitmas Day here, and then head to A’s father and step-mother’s house for Cocksing Day. It is a good way to spend Christmas, insofar as that’s ever possible, because it’s so delightfully fucking quiet . A pity about the cunt TV, but you can’t have everything I suppose.

Five: the important one. I may hate this time of year, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that you don’t. For those of you that celebrate Christmas, have a very happy one. For non-Christians celebrating concurrent festivals, I’m sending equally good wishes to you too. In case I’m not here again before January, I’ll also take this opportunity to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

I don’t say it enough, but I sincerely appreciate every one of you. Thanks for your unending support and friendship. I do love you.

Be safe everyone, and take care.

Love

Pan

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 cรฉlรจbre.”

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 cรฉlรจbre for a couple of days a week?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh really? I mean, seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I pointlessly confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that as bad as it was?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…..

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

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

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

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

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

Continued here.