Saturday, 15 November 2014

The great unravelling

I feel no shame in admitting that I find motherhood extremely difficult mentally. All of the coping mechanisms I've developed over the last 25 years are now next to useless, because I've effectively become two people. My BPD didn't conveniently ebb away in the haze of the newborn weeks, but rather it decided to accompany me like some sort of bad smell. Being unable to deal with the moment without some sort of intellectual stimuli is not a quality that fits well with being a parent.

I no longer get to say "I need time out to write/compose/think" (delete as appropriate), because a child relies on me to engage with him every minute of every day we are alone together. That's my job - and it's a really bloody satisfying one at that. BUT, it's something that brings with it a multitude of new reasons to fight my own mind on a daily basis. This unique relationship - the only one of its kind I'll ever have - is the only reason I'm going back to therapy. Google 'parents with borderline personality disorder' and you'll see why.

Let's skip back to a couple of weeks ago, and my first group session of DBT. I was told it would cover mindfulness, a way of being wholly in the moment, but in a non-judgemental way. So in a nutshell, it's something that goes against the very core of being human. We like to judge, we love to worry about the past, the future and everything else inbetween. Due to some 'fuck ups' (their words) by the therapists, we only did 30 minutes of mindfulness, and the rest of the 2 hours was spent on 'emotional regulation' (Actually, I'm not sure if it wasn't 'recognition' or another word I can't remember). You may recall the penis drawing I mentioned in my last post. That was me attempting to use humour to squash emotions of course. They have a money box which we all have to add money to every time we say anything judgemental - "It's not fair"; "I couldn't"; "I should" are all included in the naughty list. My first thought was 'I'm not giving any more money away - this is costing £60K as it is!'. Yes, but it's going to a charity you terrible cunt.

Before the first day, I'd spent a considerable amount of time pondering over who the other group members might be, and whether they'd fit my expectations. I was the only new person; I'd been let into the room early and was sitting alone drinking from my plastic cup of tea when some people I'd seen earlier smoking at the end of the driveway showed up. I saw myself at various stages of my life in every single one of them. I decided immediately that this was going to be hard work, and exactly the kind of hard work I generally don't want to do. 

Having set myself up to fail from the very beginning, it came as a huge surprise when during my one to one session yesterday, I experienced what I think should probably be known as 'a fucking awful realisation'. Every single time I've seen her, my therapist has described me to a tee. Just from watching how I am in the group. I couldn't have done it better myself - and guess what? It really annoyed me. No longer was I this elusive, aloof character with a multitude of secrets and an affect that can change with the wind; rather I've become a textbook case with the same emotions and salty tears as everyone else. 

A very long time ago, after a lot of very painful things had happened in quick succession, I'd unconsciously made the decision to suppress my emotions (again, as mentioned in my last post). But it also became clear that at regular intervals, when traumatic things have happened in my life, I've flipped back over into 'emotional mind' and then swung between the two in a way about as seamless as a pair of Spanx. One comment; one bad word; one misguided perception is all it takes for me to flip. At this last appointment, I could literally feel my therapist chipping away at my sea wall - the one I use to keep those tidal waves of emotion from turning me into a sandy beach. I have to be tough; I have to appear in control at all times, but give me a drink (or ten), or better still try and stop me having a drink, and I'll melt down like a toddler. We were talking about a smell. A SMELL. And I could feel the tears coming.

So now it's like the bile (again, read my last post) is just millimetres away from the surface, and I feel like a sort of semi-dormant volcano, smoking away whilst an unsuspecting village goes about their daily business not realising they're about to be petrified forever by molten lava for the humans of the future to marvel at in an immersive tourist attraction. Sounds a bit grandiose I know, but that's about the magnitude of the fear for me at this point and I feel very foolish admitting it. 

God only knows how they teach therapists to pick up on the most miniscule of clues and then map out your entire psyche as if it were as simple as the tube map. I definitely don't remember the 2 psychology degrees I sat through covering a module in mind reading. I guess that's what the money they obviously haven't spent on the decor goes towards - the best damn therapists around (and a mysterious massage/torture chair I've glimpsed through a door). The amount she's unpicked in me in such a short time is nothing short of genius, but so far it's only added problems, not taken them away. I went in with BPD, and now I have a healthy dose of PTSD on top.

Maybe I'll tell her next week that I find it triggering every time I see the women from the EDU (eating disorders unit) wandering around with bags of liquid food strapped around their waists and tubes taped into their noses; thinning straw-like hair and layers and layers of clothes. As my body gets smaller, so do my eyes it seems. Of all my self-harm mechanisms, that has to be my favourite friend and they make me feel I'm not doing it properly somehow. 

The more I give away, the 'better' I'll be. But that in itself is pretty terrifying.






Thursday, 13 November 2014

Penis envy

Everything's an acronym these days; BPD (which can confusingly stand for two different mental illnesses), CBT and DBT (I know the difference but I still don't know the difference), CMHT, EMDR, SLAM... and FYI, it could all be summed up thusly - THERE IS NO ONE THERAPY THAT ALWAYS WORKS. 

Having decided that now I'm in charge of the life of another human being, I probably should heed the little voice in my head that reminds me I'm a product of some unaddressed issues, and therefore I have a responsibility not to let this cycle continue to spiral down through the generations, I'm now spending Thursday mornings in group therapy for the next 15 weeks. 

Of course I'm not allowed to (and never would) discuss any of my fellow group members outside of those walls. But what I will do is talk about how the experience is for me. I shall begin with the building, because as we all know, the bricks and mortar of a therapy centre are pretty much the only things that stay constant about a hospital for mental illness. Upon first arriving at said building, my attention was drawn to a plaque on the wall - 'This building was officially opened by someone you've never heard of in 1990'. Upon entering the reception, it became clear that this unnotable person was obviously so revered that nothing had been changed since that day. For somewhere that costs an arm and a leg to attend, I'd naively expected that it might've had a lick of paint in 20 years and that perhaps the carpet had suffered enough spilled hot beverages for one lifetime and needed putting out of its misery - ooh, if only carpets could talk...

I'd been advised to give myself time after therapy sessions before going home and going straight back to working, but of course I was about as likely to take that advice as I was to take a shortcut through the ominous looking pond with its layer of green sludge I'd walked past on my way there. This advice had also made me imagine that DBT was going to be emotionally draining and altogether hideous. So I was pleasantly surprised when the very first activity was a bit of leisurely origami. This, although not as easy for me as it used to be, was the kind of distraction I love. Considering I'm normally running from meeting to meeting with a phone in one hand and an iPad in the other, I felt rather as if I'd gone on holiday by mistake. And that's when it began - even in a room full of other people with BPD, most of which have the scars to prove it - I'm still the odd one out. The sense of failure the others all admitted to just wasn't there; instead I just felt like I wasn't ill enough to be there. 

Something about the group setting, all of us sitting at flimsy canteen-esque tables and the dynamic of being referred to as a 'patient' brought out the naughty child in me. I couldn't help but chuckle every time I saw a squirrel through the window, and ask awkward pedantic and wholly unnecessary questions to try and catch the therapists out. I normally loathe the term 'service user' or 'client', but now I was suddenly irritated that I was being called neither. 

I knew things were going that way from the very beginning of my first session, when I was handed the instructions for the origami exercise and my first thought was that one of the drawings looked like a penis. Now of course back in the days when Freud wasn't just a man with some slightly unusual ways of distracting attention from his own sexual fantasies, this may have been significant. Now, it just is what it is (which is definitely a penis).        
A fortnight later I began to realise that maybe I'd got these thought processes and behaviours so ingrained that I couldn't even identify them any more. There's a diagram that shows 3 states of mind - emotional mind, which I spent the majority of my teenage years and twenties in, reasonable mind, where I now hang out, and wise mind, which I'm told is the goal. 

As a teenager, I brought drama and chaos to everything I did. So wildy out of proportion were my emotional reactions that my only way of stopping them was to self-harm. That allowed me to externalise those feelings and then 'fix' them by taking care of the wound. That all changed when I lost my mother unexpectedly at university, and so painful were those emotions, I flipped over into reasonable mind and I've been there ever since. In reasonable mind, I no longer feel anything - I've numbed myself and that means I've numbed not only the pain, but also the joy, and the happiness. As clever as that may sound, being numb means missing out on the things that make life worth living.

Theory is one thing, but practising not doing something you're not even conscious you've been doing is another. 

Emotions are like bile - you need to secrete some into your system - but too much or not enough and it starts to become damaging. 


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it...

Perhaps It's time I elaborated on some of Lucy's strengths, rather than banging on about how effing annoying she is to live with, because believe it or not, she can actually be quite spectacularly brilliant - in a sort of puppy-dog-eyes-draw-you-in-and-then-steal-your-lunch kind of a way.

If this is the first blog post of mine you've read, then I shall precede the aforementioned elaboration by elaborating on who the heck 'Lucy' is; She's the 'other' me. The one that isn't 'Me', me. The 'me' who engages in all the self-harming behaviours I've so far covered in previous posts, plus many more I've not yet got around to. In fact, you know what? Just go and read it - that would be my advice.

You know that one person you see at parties - the metaphorical life and soul - they seem to know everyone (including people not even in attendance that night), they're the centre of the room and the first and last one dancing, although they never ever buy their own drink. Then, at a crucial turning point - who knows how it happens - the balance tips and they are suddenly the drunken arse with a face covered in lipstick and mascara, who's had their bag stolen and can't even stand up long enough to hail a taxi. You know the ones, right? Bingo.

Lucy does on or off, hot or cold, up or down, and just about any other opposite pairing you can think of. So what, I hear you cry (or perhaps whimper...), are the ups? Let's begin with that 'life and soul' thing. When she arrives, she genuinely does know everyone. She even has her own seat in an East London bar. She's the one you ask if you want to go out the back and snort drugs in the kitchen, except people know she'll do all the drugs herself, given half a chance. She's pretty good to talk to, and she loves talking. If you make her laugh, she'll probably go home with you if you're so inclined, and you'd be hard pressed to find a man or woman in East London on a weekend who isn't, frankly. Saying that, she doesn't just give it away to any old Tom, or Harry (and that middle one, who seems a bit too obvious for this sentence). Even when sh*tfaced, she doesn't sleep with complete strangers, ever. It's probably a little confusing to classify that as a benefit, but perhaps it is. 

Now I did say 'benefits', and so far I don't think I've really sold it. So far we know she's a bit of a loose cannon and she probably associates sex with being valued - not one to take home to meet the parents, obviously. But here's the thing - her combination of a lack of emotional intelligence, coupled with a relatively high IQ, means she not only has great ideas, but she's also brave enough to make them reality - even if only by accident. She never thinks about the consequences of her actions, ever, so it just wouldn't occur to her that someone on the bottom rung of a very long ladder shouldn't bowl up to a director and tell them in no uncertain terms what she thinks they should do. Imagine if the whole corporate world worked like that? Forget the office politics, the pecking order - scrap the unspoken hierarchy and unwritten rules of who's who and all that nonsense - she'll pipe up at any available opportunity and tell even the most senior bods how to do it better. She'll spill her guts to anyone who'll listen (or pretend to). She has no concept of these arbitrary corporate grades, and she knows that nothing can happen in a boardroom to rival the challenge of surviving in her own mind. As grandiose and deluded as that sounds, it's the truth. We're all susceptible to mental illness, and Lucy IS mental illness. "You're an MD then are you? Pfft - ok, here's what I want you to do...".

And for some reason, it works. That level of laissez-faire methodology coupled with a lot of the sorts of brainwaves (I'll fill you in later) that make a conducive environment in which to have ideas is often a recipe for success for Lucy. People like her. Maybe they feel sorry for her, or maybe they recognise the darker sides of themselves in her; either way, she has friends she's known for over 30 years. Unadulterated honesty is attractive in an age where we've all become liars - you always know where you stand with her. She has a tendency to trust without testing; to give away parts of herself that should be reserved for others. Only very recently I realised that she'd innocently made loans of various parts of her soul to completely unsuitable guardians. 

Luckily, although Lucy is a part of me, that part is less than half now and I've worked really hard to win back my controlling share. I'm not entirely sure what to do with it, but it's progress. Internal dialogue is one thing, Lucy is another. I simultaneously love her and hate her - you see how she makes everything into an extreme? I miss the excitement. But I need a life without her now. 







Sunday, 2 November 2014

I hated neon.

I regularly turn on the TV to watch coverage of a festival I once used to go to, and see people I used to know receiving the applause and adoration of a several thousand strong crowd I used to wish would clap for me. For the last few years I've had to stop watching, because it can illicit an emotional response I'm never ready for. I find it impossible to listen to new music non-judgementally (this will make more sense when I start writing about my most recent therapy); I've ruined it forever, probably. 

Music for me has a direct correlation with my mental state - the more I'm listening to, the more likely I am to be slipping back into my teenage mind, and consequently revisiting every extreme corner of it. Only now I can't run away and feed these desires. Things are different now.

One of the most annoying perils of social media, for me, has to be the constant reminders that my life has turned out differently to what I'd imagined. From the early nineties Kurt Cobain obsession, the mid 2000s wearing neon and being shouty, to the highlight of hearing my own voice ringing out into the silence of 800 people in a converted chapel, I felt sure I would 'do' music. That's not to say I didn't give it a bloody good go, but as many of us poor deluded musicians do, I ended up spending more money than I ever made. 

After 12 years busting my vocal chords trying to be something I wasn't, it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. An ex-bandmate (we were a two piece) told me never to say Metallica were one of my favourite bands, because the nu-ravers wouldn't like it. That was before liking metal became ironic of course. It never looks ironic on me though - I didn't even fit in at my own shows. I hated neon. 
A good (although I use that term in reference to numbers, not quality) proportion of my ex-boyfriends were, or are in bands that are living the life I'd imagined, and some are doing it despite still being 'unknown', as the industry likes to call them. If you're an ex of mine and you're reading this, then I'm probably not referring to you, because if I were, you'd be busy coiffing espresso jagerbombs and smoking in a bar in Dalston somewhere. The point is, they appear to live life from one Instagrammed moment to the next, with no normal stuff inbetween. "Here's me, looking skinny and wearing a t-shirt with some words about something only cool people will get, with one dead tooth from all the blow I've done and a Marlboro red dangling from my mouth". That kind of image once seemed attractive to me - the misguided, vulnerable, aloof yet willfully expressive twat who never knew what he wanted and was just as hellbent on self-destruction as I was. 

That's exactly how it happens, see. 

BPD is not dissimilar to leading a double life sometimes. There's me - ME me - and then there's me. The other me. I know this will come across as if I'm somehow trying to pin the blame on my fictional 'evil twin', but in all of these relationships, the other me did it. I shit you not, as the pope once said (something about bears, and woods, I can't really remember but it's not important).

So this other me - let's call her 'Lucy' because I wrote about 3 chapters of an autobiographical novel in 1999 in which my character was called the same - she was the one who went out looking for these relationships. She started it every time. Lucy couldn't get to grips with her feelings about anything at all, so she sought out matches who not only couldn't get to grips with their feelings either, but who fed her assumptions about herself, assumptions like 'not worthy of love' and so on. God it's such an awful cliche isn't it? And each and every time, she expected to be rejected, and so she was. And even if she wasn't, she did something to make it happen, like cheat, or fall in 'love' with someone else, or simply refuse to spend any time apart.

It's probably no surprise then that more than 3 of Lucy's choices underwent some sort of psychiatric treatment either before, during or after her relationship with them. There were a lot of tears, threats and ultimatums. There was never not alcohol. There were also copious amounts of illegal and prescription drugs on all sides. Lucy loved and lost; that's just what she did. Anything else was just a byproduct.

This then raises the question: Who are we if we are not our diagnosis? Lucy lives in our house. She's a lot quieter these days, but in the evenings she still turns the music up to an annoying volume and threatens to force me to go out with her. Whenever it's too quiet and I'm alone, she sees an opportunity to get me to do what she wants. Pretty much the only place she stays away from is work - work being my plan B, work being not music, but the corporate world that Lucy would rather die than join in with. Although I still have to mention her whenever someone asks me why I have some rather unconventional artwork on my skin. They think it's all terribly rock 'n' roll. Little do they know.


Saturday, 25 October 2014

8th August 2011

I often tell people I barely remember what happened. That's a complete lie. I can take myself back to it with ease, and feel it all as if I were still there. I think it's about time people thought about this turn of events in terms of much more than the destruction of bricks and mortar.

Imagine a situation where what just 30 minutes ago was something happening on TV that you felt immensely grateful wasn't happening to you, suddenly was happening to you. Where you were living out a moment that you'd not even imagined could happen in your leafy middle class neighbourhood. And somewhere in the middle of that moment, you found yourself asking the question people always ask in interviews with celebrities when they've run out of decent questions - "If the house was burning down, what would you save first?".

I should mention that I'd already thought I was about to die several times in my then 31 years. Once when I almost drowned in an outdoor swimming pool, once when my father accidentally set fire to the flat on Christmas Day 1989 (much to my mother's anguish), and then again when someone held a knife to my throat in the woods on a cannabis fuelled night when I was 15. Only the second of these featured any sort of feeling about what my death might mean, and that was dismay that I'd never get to play with my new Gameboy before I died. I know - first world problems. 

In August 2011, a hot summer and a lot of crowd psychology resulted in gangs of people rioting on the streets of London, mostly breaking into unoccupied shops and stealing pointless things like Playstations. Those were businesses. Granted some were businesses owned by people whose lives depended on them, but they were able to fall back on Mr Cameron's promise to 'not leave anyone out of pocket'. For some unfathomable reason, some of those people took it to the next level. Some decided that attempted murder was a good laugh, something to break up the monotony of what was essentially quite a dull riot.

Let me further set the scene by filling you in on the weeks immediately before that night; I'd just had a failed cardiac ablation surgery, which didn't involve cracking the chest open, but did involve me having adrenaline pushed into my bloodstream directly through my femoral artery. As you can imagine, it wasn't very pleasant, and neither was the bruising afterwards that was so extensive it passed through me from the front of my hip into my buttock, and was absolutely black and blue. Walking was neither possible, nor desirable. I'd also just found out that I was probably infertile. So I was struggling emotionally with these experiences already. To cut a long story short, as we were watching the riots unfold on the news channels, they suddenly arrived at our front door. 

It's quite hard to describe the feeling you get when you realise there's an angry mob of around 200 people outside your home, smashing windows and throwing flaming missiles up at your windows. I'd say it was akin to the feeling of mainlining adrenaline - the kind of situation that seems so unbelievable that you actually laugh. I'm terrible for nervous laughter. We turned off all our lights, I have no idea why we thought that was a thing we should do. They already knew there were people inside, there were two more floors above us with their lights on. Not a single police officer was there - it was just us and them. I thought about taking our biggest kitchen knife downstairs and defending my property, but I was talked out of it fairly quickly. Once we'd realised that help was definitely not coming, and I'd heard someone outside saying he was going to start a fire, we knew it was time to leave.

Somewhere between us packing a rucksack and when we started running, I went into shock. 

I'll spare you more details because frankly I'm sick of talking about it, but what I do want to tell you is what happened afterwards. Yes, we were insured. No, the payout didn't cover our losses. In fact there is no insurance that would've covered what we lost, such a policy doesn't exist. We weren't just homeless, we couldn't go to work because funnily enough, when people try to burn your home down when you're inside it, you don't take a carefully planned outfit you can then wear to work the next day. 

I busied myself with distraction; we stayed with family, then friends, then in a Travelodge room for two months. I had a second abdominal surgery whilst we lived out our very own Alan Partridge storyline. We had no idea what to do next - we couldn't rent because we'd lost all proof of who we were. I did TV news interviews and appeared in the national press. Anything to stop me thinking about what was happening to us. During that aftermath, I lost all ability to be rational. I drank heavily and sobbed uncontrollably. I hated everyone.

During the whole of that time, not a single person outside family and friends asked if we were ok - they asked if we were physically hurt, but our mental health? Not a sausage. The police apparently hunted for the perpetrator, whom they said would be charged with attempted murder, but nobody was ever caught. They just stopped calling us and that was the end of it. Except it wasn't. It still isn't. 

Our MP called me once, after I'd tweeted her about our plight; she said 'So you're the tweeter?' As if I were some sort of annoying insect. The only help we got was to speed up our insurance claim, which was still not progressing even 2 months afterwards. Boris Johnson refused our claim from the fund for which the sole purpose was to help those disadvantaged by the events, and Cameron's words rang hollow as always. Millions of pounds of that fund were never given to those in need. It was hard not to feel bitter that some businesses had huge sums of money raised for them by strangers onlin to rebuild when we had nothing. Sometimes you find your ugliest sides when you've lost everything. I still have the letter from Boris, listing a million bullshit reasons why they weren't going to help us.

I tried to engage with Victim Support, but they would only see me in Ealing although I was staying on the other side of London with no money. Everyone seemed to assume that we because weren't injured physically, everything was ok. It wasn't. It still isn't.

I didn't lose just my business. I lost both my business and my home, I almost lost my relationship, and I lost my ability to walk alone after dark. I lost my trust that the emergency services would be there when I needed them and I lost my mental health. 

Maybe if I'd had the chance to tell this to the politicians who thought that we didn't deserve any help, they might've stopped thinking that money was all that mattered. No amount of money will heal that scar.

Is it really so difficult to imagine how what happened might be mentally difficult? It was. It still is.



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Day of the damned

Every other month seems to be 'National Toadstool Height Preservation Month', 'International Rat Fancier's Heart Health Month', or 'World Month For Outie Bellybutton Support'. We have weeks and days too - 'Ticking Clock Annoyance Awareness Day', 'Adult Lego Rights Week', and 'There's No Shame In Using An Electric Toothbrush For That Week'. 

I'm always shocked when I find out the event I've been helping to organise is in aid of one of these elected time periods - mainly because I never remember when they are, nor do I understand what they do. Wouldn't just walking through the streets shouting "Mental illness!" Have the same effect? Well, perhaps that depends on where you live. I simply go ahead and shout about things I believe need to be heard, whenever the hell I feel like it. It works for me, and it makes it a lot easier when it comes to diaries.

I've been actively trying to defeat stigma for what seems like forever. Back in the late nineties during an ill-advised pseudo-rebellion, I walked through the high street of my village in rural Somerset with my scars on show - it was summer, I wasn't about to stay covered up to pander to anyone else's squeamishness. Of course I hadn't quite prepared myself for the inevitable staring and loud enquiries of young children, who thought I'd obviously had an accident involving a lawnmower, or that I had a particularly feisty feline friend. I felt shamed that I'd exposed innocent young minds to something I didn't even understand myself yet. 

It's odd when you think that I'd spent the first six months of my serious cutting hiding it for all I was worth. Tubigrip was my friend, and I could blame it on the tendonitis I'd got from too much violin playing. But a couple of times I'd slipped up, and being that my mother was alarmingly astute despite her inherent skill in appearing distant and disinterested, she busted me. I think by that point I'd started to almost want someone to find me out. 

Once the cat was out of the bag (please excuse me, I can never resist a play on words) I lost all of my ability to care about other people seeing my cuts. On many occasions I turned up to the pub where my underage companions and I drank on a daily basis with open wounds I hadn't bothered to even dress. My GP made me visit the nurse at my local surgery weekly to at least try and avoid infection, and I'm sure they thought I was a lost cause, such was the look of pity I got at each visit. 

During this time I met another cutter, who acknowledged me but we never discussed it. She never let anyone see her arms, but we all knew. I remember thinking "But this isn't a thing, is it?" Because I genuinely didn't know anybody else did it. I was hooked on the high, the release, the sense of strength it gave me. I disliked her at first, because she unintentionally made me feel inferior by having more than me. A prime example of just how messed up it all was.

I only recently found out (well, just now actually) that there is a 'self injury awareness week', and this led me to thinking what that might consist of. Is it a day when the self-injurious throw away the bandages and run naked through neighbourhoods the world over? Should we wear our scars like the badges of honour and bravery they sometimes feel like? Are parents suddenly less likely to wrench their toddlers out of our paths in Tesco? I'd imagine not. It's never going to be an acceptable way to express emotions that can be so hard to define in any 'normal' way, like crying or shouting, stomping or sobbing, wringing hands and gnashing teeth etc. just as a skunk is cute and fluffy until it propels a stinking cloud from beneath its tail (I got that information from cartoons).

It's obviously good that most of society don't accept physically harming oneself to be a 'normal' thing - but treating those of us who do it like lepers isn't 'normal' either. The idea that I ever chose to scar myself for life whilst realising I'd be scarred for life is frankly ridiculous. I wasn't thinking. I was acting on an impulse - and one that had provided a way for me to open a valve and release the pent up pressure. I was in the moment each and every time. I was saving my own life.

I used to take photos before things got more serious, I thought it'd help me not to do it again (or perhaps deep down I thought I had achieved something I wanted to record). There were other far more triggering things I did to feed this sense of pride, but I still haven't decided if I should go as far as to describe them here. I desperately want to just go all out, but the last thing I want is to give someone else my twisted ideas. That's the problem with honesty really - I would willingly tell you all about it because I'm not ashamed, but I also have a conscience. Sometimes a trigger warning isn't enough if someone is actively looking for triggers. I did that, and at certain times I felt I was somehow in competition with others who also did it, and talked about it. I cannot stress enough that however I felt in those moments when I was medicating myself with physical pain, it was nothing in comparison to the shame and guilt I feel now every time a stranger asks me why my skin is completely messed up. It's still visible even under my tattoos. 

During my pregnancy, many midwives saw the scars on my belly and my legs; most probably confused them with stretch marks, but when the health visitor came for the first time after my son was born she had notes saying I had a history of mental illness - I'm pretty sure someone had clocked what they were during a scan and made a note to ask me if I had 'a low mood'. I know how to lie frighteningly well simply to deal with those unwanted questions from strangers, so after the second visit they left, never to return. It's pretty shocking to think that one question was the only time anybody made the slightest attempt to gauge if I had post-natal depression. I went on to reach breaking point just after starting back at work. Why on earth would I ever volunteer the information that I was convinced would be enough for them to take my child? Had it been the doctor I see now, he would've sussed me straight away. Scarily though no drugs would've helped. 

I struggle with motherhood. I'm not afraid to admit that. But I'm never EVER neglectful either physical or emotionally and I love my child so much it hurts. I would rather die than find out he'd harmed himself. And that's why I want to talk about it. 



Wednesday, 8 October 2014

X

The most pleasant dream you've ever had. The one where you can jump from the top of the stairs and fly. The one where you have no need to walk, or run, or think, or perceive. The one where you find yourself in a dream, inside a dream, inside a dream, inside a dream.

You are perfectly formed and perfectly minded. A hand, a foot, an eye, a thought, a belief; they are all rolled together into an understanding you can't explain and could never have imagined. Words and feelings are your fingers and toes, and memories are folded together like downy feathers under your wings. You are the leader and the follower and the hope and the desire.

You don't feel cold or burn in the sun; you can smell the warmth and the light as if it filled and saturated every sense. Nature, brimming with colours and tastes, as light falls on your face wherever you turn. The sea and the rivers lift you to mountain tops where snow is the stars, the forest is your hair, and the moon is your oyster.

Where all those you love are gathered together, in a time when the clocks froze in the past, the present  and the future. In a place you've been but never been. Past animosity or petty disagreements never happened; the newspapers are blank pages because language is just a soft blanket. There are no circumstances, no time, no other places than here. No painful moments, no debts or disasters of any kind you can remember. The animals you buried in gardens over the years are all there - you wonder why you thought they were gone, because nothing is gone. Nothing is done. This moment and every other moment is right. It is all here, it is all overwhelmingly now.

The world is as big as an infinite expanding universe, so you can survey it all in the knowledge that none of this matters. All your beauty and every single drop of your being is captured here. This is where you were before you were born. You were flying.

This is the dream that happens when you die, X. 

We continue on, in a world where this dream gets forgotten. We feel we have lost a limb, a ventricle, a life-giving artery. Normality has altered and nothing will ever be the same. The mothers and fathers ache for you. We feel the loss of those first days with the life you created, and ultimately sacrificed yourself to bring to us. We fall into the void you leave, only to emerge, bruised and exhausted somewhere we never imagined. Somewhere in the blackening dust of reality. We feel your loss whilst you are dreaming. We burn with the injustice of what shouldn't have been your story. The ending was all wrong. All wrong. 

There are no words that can deliver you back to our world, nothing to comfort, nothing to believe. But comfort comes with time and belief is in the eyes of the boy with the full head of hair - he is our connection between our dream and yours. In our world, there are no wings. 

You're in your dream now, dear X. You're jumping off the top step.