Sick in the head

So lets have a little chat about mental health… well my mental health.

I actually don’t know where to start. From about 15 I experienced manic and depressive episodes. I’ve also had severe anxiety for a long long time. There have been a plethora of traumatic life events and my physical health is screwed. But the past few years have been relatively stable for me compared to the past. It’s had its ups and downs.

What I didn’t realise was my relationship, which once allowed me to be me, was becoming toxic. I was being suffocated and dimmed until I didn’t believe in my self any more. At home I was walking on eggshells incase I upset the one person that made me so happy and free. Or shouting because I was literally being ignored and he pretended I wasn’t speaking; I thought I was going crazy. In fact I was told repeatedly I was. I’d be ignored for sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, and cry on my own whilst he went out.

I was lured into staying at home whilst he went out because of my illness and I withdrew more and more. I tried to manipulate time together and control this not realising what I was doing and that something was deeply wrong. Anxiety at leaving the house was returning and I never spoke about my life and what I was doing. I’d listen to hours on end to his problems and help him solve them. Coaching the other person to be a better person and neglecting myself.

My physical health was going hand in hand with this silent gagging. I felt permanently guilty for the unexciting, fat, ugly monster I’d become. He always said it would be ok and I was still beautiful, these were lies.

Then there was the courting other people. Horrid toxic people. My intuition has always been good and alarm bells were ringing. But I was forced to let these people into my home and berated for questioning it. Then came the series of public humiliations in front of them. He was no longer fighting for me, or with me, but hurting me.

Alongside this my physical health with auto-immune was slipping and I couldn’t cope with any of it. I was going to appointments on my own now and feeling very frightened. He got angry when I needed an ambulance. In the end he had to be told it was odd that you’d rather be at work (or maybe fucking that girl) whilst I was having a lumbar puncture.

I was fighting a battle with the world to say I really am sick, please believe me, I’m not a fraud. I’d drive to work in so much pain I’d stop and vomit 3 or 4 times along the way. I let people down and got so muddled. It was like daily torture. I earned less and less and he made me feel like a burden. I desperately tried to keep earning and budgeting. Quite often I was covering up his big mistakes and lavish lifestyle. I agreed to put my name on a huge loan so he could get a brand new motorbike we couldn’t afford that was impractical and feeding his image. I was made to feel bad for not being able to ride it.

I heard my friend’s story about domestic abuse and alarm bells rang. I ignored them because I still believed in him but it was there, I was in love with a narcissist:

  • Love Bombing – He made me feel so special, this was it and I was the one. He promised me the absolute world and went above and beyond to win my love.
  • They can’t admit when they’re wrong. – He never ever said sorry even if he was proven wrong. You’d make me beg for forgiveness or tell me I was going mad.
  • Conversations are one-sided. – in the end I was helping him run his business but he didn’t even realise I was directing a play!
  • They’re really, really ridiculously good looking. I was made to listen to hours of how he got girl’s and guy’s numbers over the bar and was the most good looking guy at work. I was always made to feel lucky then ugly.
  • Their brand of empathy is self-motivated. Being the kindest most generous person in public was his forte, and it tricked us all into thinking he was so kind. It wasn’t like this at hime, the brooding moods and hours of silence or being picked apart showed that.
  • Your needs and requests don’t matter. So in the end I got so sick I couldn’t move, I felt terrible that he was my carer. I’d not ask for ages but then not being able to get upstairs for meds or into the kitchen for food. I’d guiltily ask for help or painkillers. He’d then stretch the time out as long as possible till I’d beg like he had some kind of control. It was torture yet always my fault. And the same was happening with our dogs as he neglected them then blamed me.

So towards the end I couldn’t work and was in and out of hospital. The experts were still saying it was OK, I was not OK. I was in pain most of the time and not coping, I was taking a lot of painkillers and 9 different meds everyday. I didn’t go out or forced myself to be exciting then be in bed for a week in agony.

All of this went on relentlessly and I was trapped in a cycle of pain, misery, bullying. Then we had to move house, I was exhausted. I knew he was cheating but made to feel so awful I didn’t have the self worth left to confront it. I was fucking up work and working like a maniac. I suddenly realised I was having suicidal thoughts.

I was very scared by this point and spent hours fantasising and planning. I tried to voice it but he didn’t listen. I got so sick with migraine I needed an ambulance but he wouldn’t ring one and then abandoned me.

Then out of hospital a week later I had another crippling migraine. I left the wedding we were at telling him why I couldn’t stay. I drove myself 45 minutes home then the vomiting came. I text to see where he was. I now know he was cheating. He came home and his only words were ‘its over there’s no talking about it’. Whilst I was at my weakest and most vulnerable he baled.

That was it for me. The switch finally flipped. My first reaction was flight, so I ran, my head full of ways to hurt myself. But I walked it out and bravely returned to the house to ask like an adult to talk about it. I wanted a reason why, to fight through it. To understand the cruelty and to be stripped of all control over my own life. I know now that he chose this moment because I was so sick and he is a coward. I also think he was in a corner and cheating. This is not how you treat someone after 6 years of building a life together. My voice was smaller than ever.

In one moment my life, trust and my home had gone. I already had lost my work and income and then my health was so bad. There was not an area of my life that was OK.

So I decided to end it. Not for attention or a cry for help. I just wanted peace. It’s hard to say I didn’t want to kill myself but it’s true. I really just wanted to sleep and not wake up. In that moment the pain of the world was just too much and I couldn’t go on. I panicked. I still in a way am annoyed that I wasn’t allowed to make my own choice.

It happened again two weeks later when he said the most terrible things to me after I found proof of the cheating. Even I didn’t realise how low he’d go in the moment of my pure brokeness. Telling someone they are mental and need help doesn’t help them but makes them panic. Panic that everyone will agree and say ‘lucky you escaping from that’. Saying ‘its been dead for years’ is the most hurtful thing he could ever ever say to someone who invested so much. There are things that were said that I cannot even write now as they are too painful. They make me want to vomit they were so degrading and bad. I flipped, went through anger and crazy. I shouted as loud as I could for help to those around me and I was saying I’m not OK. The next thing I knew were the police were climbing through my window and threatening to section me. I had tried to sleep again.

See there’s always a story behind the mental health and mines supposed to be down to my physical health and nervous system damage on top of all of this trauma. I’m not ashamed of my actions at all. I only worry that I still am a burden to others and let them down or scared them silly.

I didn’t actually mean to write this post at all. It was going to be something more generalised about mental health. But it kind of all fell out onto the page. One of the hardest things I’ll ever write and this is so paired back.

I’m also not a victim, I don’t want you to see me as that, I am always trying to fix things. This time my energy and life force ran out. My buttons were pressed. My control taken away. I really did choose flight but now I know I am full of fight. Bring it on. I survived this and now I want to do it my way.

 

Sharp enough

A friend posted that they could see me ‘developing an edge sharp enough to cut through this’ and carve a new beginning.

There’s been a lot of soul searching going on inside this skull over the past few weeks. But it’s all felt like a dull bladed knife trying to cut through lead.

You feel that you know yourself so well and can see your path. In a heartbeat it changes. A few cruel words that bring your world crashing down. Everything is bought into question. The smallest of routine, even the way you make tea or breathe.

The problem is all the destruction is so silent. Everything has changed for you yet the world still silently remains. It carries on without you. I’ve been walking the streets with voices muffled and blinkers on, yet inside a war rages.

All the rituals you made no longer have purpose and you carry on performing them till they are redundant and ridiculous. I caught myself hanging your washing on the line and didn’t know why… energy wasted on you. Taking two mugs out instead of one for coffee. Every word spoken has to be corrected. ‘We, I mean I.’ ‘Us, I mean me.’

Midway through crisis I saw ‘Things To Come’.

The protagonist’s life was changed in the moment her husband announced it was over, that there was someone else. A few meagre words to change an existence and send a life into crisis. More and more went wrong yet the film seemed so calm. Her life was disintegrating around her like a mirror of my own existence. Love, death, job all at once. Her existence questioned.

We (not the relationship we but the friendship one) waited for the revenge, the meltdown, the affair to match the inner turmoil. But it never came. She got a cat, smoked a joint, cried alone. Were we cheated because of the lack of drama? I felt it at the time because I wanted the catharsis of watching someone else meltdown then make it again. Slowly I’ve realised that there is no instant fix but we quietly feel the pain in order to change.

Inside all this quiet death of a life is a sea of turmoil.  But that’s just it, it’s on the inside and the world keeps on silently turning around us. We have moments of anger in which spiteful words are thrown to try to provoke the world into anger with us. We have reckless moments to feel alive to match the pain in our chests but the world still remains waiting calmly for us. Standing in the field watching the season change and the ghosts of my self harm race by I finally stopped and listened. The world was changing once again, partly dying and going to sleep before being reborn. I would stand and see the ghosts of others before me and those yet to be.

During this time we have the chance to be anything we want to be. We are stripped bare and our inner selves exposed. I’ve cried and stamped my feet, tried to dull the pain, let the blackness from the hurt slip from my tongue. I’ve tried to move this process on without stopping to breathe.

All this has quietly been sharpening my edge. Discovering a self that’s always been here and can thrive. The problem with a sharpened blade is the danger of using it. I need to find and practice new routines. For the first time they are for me.

So I’ve decided to keep it simple. To slowly take little steps one by one. In crisis I did a personality test and found out what I already knew:

To play with the first I’m trying to capture beauty however big or small.

Today we walked on the hills above Barcelona. The view was immense but my favourite thing was this tiny window with its beautiful succulents. Almost overshadowed by the might of the city, someone had taken the time to make it so pretty. My images when I play this game will be captured with the #seekingbeauty

All brine and piss and vinegar

download

All brine and piss and vinegar,

my mouth is raw.

The pages full of false knowledge

blame the ‘lies’ that my tongue spits.

 
Blisters appear with each spiteful word,

spat at you in a moment of rage.

Anger trapped, desperate for an escape.

They are your lies not mine.

 

Tongue raw from yesterday’s drinks,

burnt and scraped with comfort eats.

Morsels that last a moment,

before they decay and rot.

 

I cannot taste anything but bile,

and vinegar and pain.

I seek the comfort of cold, smooth

kind and compassionate words.

 

My mouth is silenced,

I wake with it glued tight,

a mess of brown clotted blood,

teeth caked in earthy dried fluid.

 

But from inside there is something,

spun from a silver thread.

It speaks truth through your lies.

It’s a tale yet to be told.

 

‘All brine and piss and vinegar’  is borrowed from The Decemberist’s song “Grace Cathedral Hill”

The book that told me ulcers are caused by lies also told the reader period pain was caused by not embracing being a woman enough. I rarely lie, any more than anyone else. I love being a woman. Go figure? It’s like trying to be rescued by a Christian who keeps on insisting my auto immune is because I don’t believe in god. I don’t. Theres some proper drivel out there. I choose to follow my heart.

 

 

Amy

I always love a story that makes me feel, a story in which the protagonist burns so fiercely that you cannot ignore them. As a child I could not get the Karen Carpenter story from my head. Then as a teen it was the 27 club. Later Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Sarah Kane would haunt me. So naturally I was drawn towards Amy’s story.

Amy first appeared on my radar the same time as most other people were aware of her (maybe rehab?) I don’t really remember. I do remember making a beeline to see her at Glastonbury though. She was playing the Pyramid Stage and we went to see the inevitable car crash. I didn’t really know much about her other than she was bound to play up. And she did, too trollied to perform and picking fights with the crowd. It wasn’t the experience I expected; I felt like a sick voyeur watching somebody self destruct in the public eye. The spectacle felt wrong and the audience were baiting her for a response. She gave it and we left feeling dirty from the cheap thrills of watching someone fuck up.

Only later did I hear her music properly and appreciate what a unique mesmerising soul she was. She sang from the heart and with such raw emotion, she was clearly one in a million. I fell in love with the story that she was singing. But yet again she was too fierce and burnt too bright. Then the news came that she was dead.

Once again the scrum for her story began and missed the point entirely. It seemed like the world was saying ‘I told you so’. But this was the world who had hunted her down and foreseen the demise and did nothing. In fact the world was egging her on, and I had been part of this.

Then came Amy the film, a well told story using original footage by the director Asif Kapadia. I was glued to every second, Amy is mesmerising in her every moment. Moments captured that are ugly and beautiful. Completely vulnerable yet she commands everyone she meets. A true old soul in a youthful media world. So yes it’s a story, a film constructed to portray a one sided tale (one that has been challenged by others). But when we stop pointing the finger of blame and focus on what Amy was truly about it opened my eyes to her music. Her handwritten songs and naive teenage poems sung with a wise and mature ‘beyond her years’ voice. She says herself she’s happiest when making music.

I love Amy as a hero and someone to look up to. Yes I love the romance of her story and the rebel in her appeals to mine. But what she stands for for me is all the fierce yet vulnerable, damaged yet expressive women out there. I know my creativity continues to save me, I just wish it could have saved her. I would love to hear what music she had left to give us. Love you Amy, I’ll fight on for you.