MY [EMPTY] SELF

I’m bored of myself. Bored of my [empty] self. Bored of what I write.

I am really sorry my blog posts lately have been so uninspiring in tone. I feel actively and most passionately mundane, supressed, deflated, dull, pedestrian and un-shining.

The last time I was inspired was yesterday, which seems both not long ago while simultaneously VERY fucking long ago.

On Tuesday I wrote my piece for the local paper about mental health. I felt inspired then. I also felt proud yesterday when the charity CEO asked for my permission to share what I’d written with the team and when my social media idea was launched on world mental health day. But today, all that pride and gratefulness and positive feeling has drained away, and this is sadly the way it seems to go.

I cannot grasp hold of those amazing euphoric warm fuzzy feelings that I get and keep them.

They slip like sand through the hourglass with the passage of time…and not very much time elapses, usually.

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Emptiness is my ‘usual’.

I am feeling acutely aware of my unmet emotional needs just lately. I know why this is. It’s since the whole Facebook saga where I caught a glimpse of photos of a family wedding that I remained uninvited to and left out of.

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I saw evidence of their life going on, and I wondered why mine was not. That has made the inner emotional emptiness absolutely un-ignorable (I’m hoping that’s an actual word?!).

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Long-term therapy is what I need to get anything close to “well”, but as I can’t afford to pay for a therapist privately, I am reliant on my NHS psychologist not dropping me off her caseload too soon.

I said to her that therapy is okay and great and all that, but it is nothing like as nice as the warm fuzzy feeing that comes from having an attentive family; people who are there to stay and to love and support you as long as you need them. My therapist cannot maintain what she does for the rest of my life. She is here for a period of time that she will never ever tell me the proposed length of. I cannot know that I have a few more months, or a few more years or any kind of estimate. She simply refuses to do this.

She claims that I will not always need her, and I will naturally want to break away from her when the time comes. I tell her that is BOLLOCKS and will surely NEVER happen! I just can’t see it. I can’t envisage EVER feeling that her addition in my life is unnecessary or counterproductive or counter-therapeutic.

I am uncomfortably attached to a pretend mother figure who isn’t really my mum and never will be! and I know she isn’t really my mum, and she knows she isn’t really my mum, and we just basically play a weird dance of pretending that she is re-parenting me and teaching me psychological life lesson stuffs, and I go to the office weekly and have a good old cathartic cry, and then miss her inbetween so email her as I want to tell her psychologically relevant stuff that she MUST know that second, and then she finds me bloody intrusive and annoying (I would imagine) as I am eating into her time, and I know I’m eating into her time so feel awful and stupid and pathetic and demanding and fucking guilty, and then she knows and I know that the whole fucking shambolic mess of pretences and client-therapist exchanges would never be happening if I’d have had a less shit childhood, and at the end of the day it is all BOLLOCKS, but bollocks that if I didn’t have would cause me to become very fucking unwell, which is hard to imagine really isn’t it? as even with therapy and shit I am still fucking miserable and recurrently suicidal and fighting off impulses to do totes dangerous things like jump out of windows and carve into my skin with blades and swallow more tablets than I should be swallowing….and I really should be stopping this grammatically poor and overly LONG sentence NOW.

And breathe.

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I’m sick of having a empty space in my empty self.

I want to feel full.

Food doesn’t do it.

Booze doesn’t either.

Or sex.

Or Netflix on demand.

Or beach walks.

Or candle lit evenings with hubby.

Or meditation.

Or shopping.

Or writing.

Or drawing.

Or cleaning.

Or bleeding.

Or talking therapy.

Or coffee with good friends.

Or reading.

Or learning.

Or music.

Or nature.

Or hugs.

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Or praise.

Or reassurance.

Or expressions of love.

The only thing I’m full up with, is my own inner emptiness.

I am crammed full with emptiness, and weighed down by the weight of my (empty) self.

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summerSHINES©

 

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STARDUSTED CONFESSION

Confessions of a stardusted woman……

This came up on my Facebook feed today……

I read it, and I thought….is this true?

I think stardusted women, however irrepressible, can sometimes be stopped….we are all after all imperfect human beings capable of crumpling and falling to the floor in defeat, (sometimes many times), but a star dusted woman maybe just stands out from the pack in how quickly she gets back up again and how many time she can rise to her feet again after defeat.

This is another quote that came up on my Facebook and I thought YES, yes please…this is exactly what I want….. see below

Yes please, to the above.

Today, right now, I thought I’d have a made up face, with pristinely applied foundation, concealer, eye shadow, blush and mascara. I thought I’d be wearing a black dress, tights and heels. I thought I’d be adorned with shiny bling to suit the ambience of the swanky London hotel I was due to be doing my charity speech at. I thought I’d be making my way to the station to get my train tickets. I thought I’d be meeting my friends at Kings X station then checking into a hotel. I though I’d be meeting and shaking hands this evening with a room full of very important and very lovely people. I thought the spotlight would be on me and I’d be doing a good job of representing a mental health charity I feel immensely passionate about.

Instead, I’m here, at home, sat at my laptop with hair un-brushed, wearing my comfiest slouchiest “please don’t look at me I know I look shit today” clothes.

This stardusted woman has been defeated.

And why?

A miserable interaction of physical illness and mental illness :(

Yesterday was officially terrible.

I cried……pretty much ALL DAY. (A day is a long time, and even longer when you’re dehydrated from crying.) I had to keep sipping water, to both soothe my aching throat, and replace the liquid escaping through my tears.

I broke down big style. (Just as I did the night before last.)

I wonder if my media volunteering career is over, or maybe that I just desperately need a temporary break from the limelight? A hermit life is certainly very appealing to me to the moment. Greater privacy in general is also appealing.

Sometimes I don’t always want to share my vulnerability, and want it to be ok to be the non-coping person every once in a while with no shame and no-one especially noticing.

When I feel bad, it’s siamese twin is shame. Never can I seemingly detach shame and suffering.

I suffer- I feel bad for suffering- I suffer more etc etc.

It’s a cycle that’s difficult to beat. The strings linking one with the other are just too strong and too stringy.

I am tired of apologising for my weakness. People do tell me repeatedly that I don’t have to apologise for struggling, but I can’t budge the guilt. It sits there like the elephant in the room that is ginormous in it’s stage presence but something only my eyes can see.

No-one else gives me a hard time. Only me.

That internalised voice is loud and shrill.

It tells me…… YOU CAN’T DO IT, SO WHY EVEN TRY, YOU’LL JUST MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF.

It tells me THEY ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU, SO STOP KIDDING YOURSELF.

It tells me PUBCLICITY IS DANGEROUS, YOU ARE PUTTING YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY IN A POSITION OF THREAT BY DOING THIS. SHRINK INTO THR SHADOWS. IT’S SAFE THERE.

It tells me YOU ARE SHIT, AND THAT IS NOT OKAY.

That voice bullies me, but the voice is not mine. It’s his, Dad’s.

It’s also theirs, (the rest of the circle of abusers).

The unWelsh male voice choir lives inside my head.

Crying for a day and a night is NOT OK you weak and pathetic eejit, booms the inner chorus.

Cancel EVERYTHING, and don’t see ANYONE, is the instruction given out by the familiar bullies.

Listening to people tell you that you can’t do stuff, is almost as bad as you kidding yourself you can’t do stuff, at times when you know you can.

Maybe this blog should not be SUMMER STARTS TO SHINE, but more IT’S ACTUALLY QUITE FUCKING OKAY TO SHINE, SO DO SO FFS WITHOUT ALLOWING GUILT AND THE INNER BULLIES TO GET TO YOU! (But it is admittedly far less catchy as a title).

It is OK to shine.

It is equally OK to not shine, and just exist and rest and take a breather and plunge your fingers into the sand of your nearest beach and dig for some wisdom .

It is OK to have shone many times, but now be too burned out, too knackered, and too run down by the demands and ambitions you raggedly pursue to have a legitimate period of non-shininess.

The mental health guy on the phone yesterday said, “if you don’t do the speech, it is NOT life and death, the world will continue to turn, the evening will still happen, and the charity will understand you prioritising your health.”

He’s absolutely right there; I know what being near death feels like, and that is not how I’m feeling currently. Plus, the charity very much ARE understanding and have reassured me they understand.

But I’m embarrassed. I feel like a failure. I feel ‘less than’. I feel shame and guilt and regret and sadness and disappointment.

But why? It isn’t my fault I’m ill (mentally and physically). I didn’t turn the dial and programme in a mental health symptom flare up and catching of a virus into my electronic relapse diary. It just happened. Just as life happens.

Maybe the universe has decided this just isn’t my time to shine? and instead I should focus on and celebrate all my other shiny achievements already in the bag so far this year.

I need to think about the charity hike and the significant sum of money the event raised.

I need to think about the radio interviews, the telly interview, the contributions to victim support services, the campaigns I’ve worked on, the pieces of writing I’ve done aside from my blog that have gone into important policy-shaping documents, the successful networking and relationship building, the people I’ve met and the way they have been impressed with what they’ve saw, enough to want to work with me again and include me in further projects.

Today I very much care that I had to pull out of the speech. But I will not care forever.

My worth as a person does not depend on whether I am a speaker at a charity event.

The people who may have been a little disappointed in me backing out from the speech and thinking I perhaps should not have wasted the opportunity I was given, I’d like to see them do the speech in my place and feel the pressure I feel to be absolutely fucking fantastic all the bloody time.

I can’t maintain my fantastic. I am someone who is variable, with a wide margin of functioning, ranging from moments of sheer brilliance to sheer inept uselessness.

The rule books got thrown out when my personality was developing, so I guess I should forgive people who struggle to understand or keep up with this vacillations in performance and presentation.

Hypomanic me is capable of brilliance. Depressed traumatised childlike me can do fuck all but sit still in a room, curled up listening to the ticking clock, weeping.

People (understandably) cannot understand these two extremes, all merged into one supposedly whole person.

And then there’s my multiplicity; the dissociative identity aspect.

There is more than just one solitary summerSHINES blogger here in the personality mix.

Speak to me at different times and you will see, hear and feel the difference.

But for all my difficulties, my heart is firmly in the right place, the personal attribute I hold most dear is kindness, and none of this wretched illness has EVER been chosen.

This blog published by Time to Change (the UK stigma-busting arm of Mind) is my most liked piece of writing ever and got 1.5K likes. To read the comment thread and the full post (which links direct to this blog) go onto Facebook and search for Time to Change. (I think it is also on Twitter too.) or click HERE

Mental illness is NOT a choice, and me not doing the speech today is a choice I could not help but make.

My illness made the choice for me, and as I have never chosen this illness, I cannot be held accountable for the illness sometimes, inevitably, dictating that I should aim to do something, and then it get close and me not be well or able enough to actually go through with it.
So this is my confession……

I don’t feel OK. I refuse to hide that I’m not OK & that, my friends, is perfectly OK, OK?


summerSHINES©
 

#2 OF 20. CRISIS.

Well, I did do a little sharpie scribble to mark today, but words are necessary too. I have messages to communicate across the interweb that require words. That’s because they’re important ideas. Visualise bubble writing saying “THIS IS IMPORTANT”.

Right, let’s begin.

Yesterday was day 1 of this….

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Note**I scratched out mental-ness this morning and replaced it with a more dignified ‘distress’, as mentalness is not a word I usually use. It was just a word I used, on one day, to convey my state of mind, which was very much NOT GOOD yesterday.

In short, I had a bad afternoon. I reached a state of mental health crisis. My illness overtook me, and I took steps to act to hurt myself, badly and permanently, but was stopped by my husband who put an immediate end to my actions.

 He blocked what I was doing, so I couldn’t and didn’t do it. I didn’t like him in that moment, because I wanted him to let me hurt myself. Needless to say he didn’t hold that same opinion.

He didn’t approve of my reckless impulsive act. It wasn’t planned and premeditated. If it was I would have waited till I were alone, but I behaved impulsively in the moment, and was stopped in my tracks by someone who loves me and wanted to keep me safe.

To say the atmosphere has been tense since then is an understatement.

That is the cost.

Another cost is friends.

This is because of a basic disconnect between what people in mental health crisis want and what people in crisis sometimes get when we say what just happened.

Why did I share with people what just nearly happened? The answer is there is no thought process involved, no careful weighing up of pros and cons. When I am in crisis I behave mindlessly, NOT mindfully. I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. I have NO CLUE how long it will last. I have NO CLUE how the fuck I’ll survive. I have NO CLUE how much my crisis may spoil or potentially sabotage my friendships with people.

The thing is, people don’t choose mental health crisis, just like people don’t opt in to cancer, diabetes, seizures, physical disabilities or heart attacks.

There is no tick list that we sign saying ‘If you are happy to reach a state of mental health emergency at some point in the future, please tick the box’.

There is no crisis consent form.

There is no planning of a mental health crisis in the diary, for the most opportune time.

Many suicidal acts are impulsive, done during the most brutally painful of moments, usually after a VERY LONG period of extreme distress.

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I am four weeks into my relapse. It all began with the Recovery College issue, and since then I have spiralled and spiralled.

Yesterday was my GO STRAIGHT TO JAIL, DO NOT COLLECT 200 POUNDS moment.

(The jail is in my head. No-one can see it. So when people can’t see or touch something they have trouble imagining it exists).

Here are some mental health crisis reactions and FAQ’s (typically asked, in my experience).

What happened to make you do that?

What meds are you taking?

When did you last see your psychiatrist?

What about your kids? Think about them.

You are SO LUCKY to have what you have.

 This is my response…….

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Also this…..mental health crisis is usually little to do with medication. If a crisis is because your meds have changed, most crisis experiencers will volunteer this information to you. If we don’t, it is because we know crisis is most usually not about incorrect meds/dosing. Usually as well, psychiatric meds alterations are precipitated by a decline in emotional/mental functioning, naturally moving you towards greater likelihood of crisis. Meds don’t always automatically cause suicidality. That is a common misconception.

Another common false belief is that if you are on the right magic medication (s) then mental health crisis will never happen. People think if only someone can find the perfect medication for them then you will never contemplate suicidal actions ever, or self-harm, or reach mental health emergency where you actually act to hurt yourself. This is a fallacy. Medications DO help. They really do, for some people. But people mistake the symptom reliever (the pill) as the causal factor, rather than understanding that sometimes there is no pill that can reverse the desire and behavioural act to try to die.

I am stable on medication that helps a lot and takes the edge off my MH symptoms, but the illness is the problem, not the symptom reliever (the pill), and no pill can make it all ok. If there were magic pills that could do that, everyone would be on them, including all the doctors out there that prescribe them.

I am on good meds that work for me, but suicidality is a key feature of my illness. Self-harm is also extremely likely (a maladaptive but short-term effective way to cope with the distress), regression into dissociative identities is a symptom which I used to get,  then it went, but now has come back with a vengeance, and my most severe and traumatic flashbacks directly cause mental health crisis.

This crisis happened because I have had a dissociative breakdown and fragmented into many separate identities. Strangly enough I didn’t choose to have a mental health breakdown, and equally I can’t choose an un-breakdown. There is no mental health equivalent of a reverse vasectomy. Once you’ve felt the snip of breakdown, you can’t be the person you were before your breakdown. That’s why it’s called break DOWN, and not break back UP if you choose.

As for the care team thing, I rang for help three times in ever increasing states of desperation explaining how poorly I was and there was LITERALLY nobody to speak to there apart from the bemused receptionists. So I did try and get help first.

I don’t have a psychiatrist, because I was doing too well to need one, pre-breakdown. I have asked repeatedly for extra support from the community mental health team in the last few weeks, and the best they can offer is a psychiatrist appointment in a months time.

And as for the kid issue, a word of advice DON’T GO THERE. Please refrain from comments reminding me about my children. For one minute THINK.

Do you honestly believe I don’t consider them everyday?

Do you honestly believe I don’t care about them?

Do you believe that focusing on how wonderful they are is enough to ameliorate and cancel out a mental illness?

This is where the differences between perceptions of physical and mental illnesses travel in different directions.

To someone who has just had a seizure, you don’t say, ‘how could that have happened, what about your children?’

To someone who has broken their spine in an accident and is paralysed, people don’t say ‘how could you have let that happen when it will affect your kids so much’.

To someone who has had a tumour appear, you don’t say ‘but what about your kids, think of them’.

NO BLAME IS ATTACHED TO PHYSICAL ILLNESSES.

But when your illness is psychological, caused by trauma that wasn’t my fault, the onus is on me to not be ill and not show symptoms.

For me, and many other people with serious mental illness, the propensity to self-harm and to consider and plan suicide (suicidal ideation) is a SYMPTOM of our illness. A symptom we are BLAMED for, JUDGED for, SCORNED for, DESPISED for, RESENTED for.

If you don’t resent the cancer sufferer, then please apply that same respect to me- the sufferer of a trauma-generated mental illness.

I’m fairly sure if the boot were on the other foot and it were you fighting impulses to badly hurt yourself, you wouldn’t want comments about your kids, as though you’d opted to not give a shit about the human beings you’d created and love and nurture daily. I’m fairly sure you’d just want someone you reached out to, to empathise with your extreme suffering and wish you well in your recovery from this crisis. You wouldn’t want to be reminded that your illness made you nearly act in a way that might have caused significant harm to the people you most love.

Separate ME from my ILNESS please. Understand that my illness and me are not the same thing; just as we say someone HAS cancer, not someone IS cancer.

Keep me out of this please.

This is not about morality. This is about uncontrollable and un-chosen CRISIS. This is a symptom of a real (though invisible) illness. Mental health crisis is as uncontrollable as a heart attack, a seizure, an ever-growing tumour.

It’s time to STOP judging the person having the mental health crisis and respond in the same sympathetic way you would if someone has had a heart attack, a seizure or the spontaneous growth of a tumour.

Change the record. Drop your blame and leave it at someone else’s door-not mine.

I do my absolute best to fight this. I don’t announce everytime I succeed at not self-harming when I want to, or every day I survive without attempting suicide. There are no medals for bravery doled out. But fucking hell, if you disclose a day when your mental illness got the better of you and you couldn’t stop your crisis, prepare for guilt trips and platitudes and bullshit in response.

I have to make it clear that it is not all people who reacted in this way….only a handful, and the majority of people who responded when I disclosed what happened were very loving, caring, supportive, without a hint of judgement, or emotive shit that will make my mental state and symptoms even worse. For those people, I appreciate you. For the others, please just THINK.

I cannot be me authentically. I am too honest. It hurts to be this honest. I must hide. That is the recurring lesson. Hide everything unmentionable and you’ll be OK because then you’ll be conforming and the status quo will be preserved.

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It isn’t OK to say, if your illness is a psychological rather than a physical one.

summerSHINES©

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I WISH YOU COULD…

I wish you could be exactly the person I wanted.

I wish you could be here right now.

I wish you could comb your fingers gently through my hair, and tease out the tangled mess in my brain and heart too whilst you’re at it.

I wish you could be here beside me, but not with reality putting the spoilers on it. Let me have my fantasy, just for tonight. Please.

This isn’t some sordid piece about sexual fantasies of some red hot fantasy lover. This is about my longing for a mother.

It isn’t ugly to want to be nurtured.

It shouldn’t be forbidden to express what we’re missing and to shine the torchlight into the huge void- the place where the empty space sucks in the joy.

Everyone has an empty space inside.

Some of us are accustomed to feeling emptier and spacier than others.

Or maybe sometimes in life we just feel fuller and more satisfied than at other times.

I am sick of the deep ache.

It hurts, that ache.

Does time really heal hurt of loss?…well I guess the answer is both yes and no (fence sitting is more than allowed in this case). Yes it gets easier, AND no it fucking doesn’t. Both truisms are totally true.

I have a special blogger friend who lost her mum to suicide. Her and me, we connect beautifully, not only bevause we are both shamazing writers 😂 but because we both match up in our very specific mother-shaped emptiness.

I feel for her and her for me.

We counselled each other at the weekend via Facebook messenger.

We were both feeling very childlike and tearful and low.

But while I can enpathise (as far as I can) with her feelings around her mum’s tragic suicide, her mum isn’t there but mine is still alive, and that is where the similarity ends.

Bereavement can be literal, brought about by physical death, or it can be just as real, representative of the permenent death or severing of a mother-daughter relationship.

Both types of losses hurt and ache in a way that time alone doesn’t heal. If time does heal, it must be at the pace of the slowest snail known to man/woman kind, because I haven’t felt any discernible difference in how much I miss my mum now compared to how much I missed her when we first became estranged.

It’s been so long now that I don’t count it in months, and have lost track of the number of years.

I cry less, and less loudly I suppose. There are less minutes overall spent weeping into tear-dampened crumpled pillows with melencholic mood congruent music blaring out of Spotify. But the hurt is still there- it just makes far less of a sound.

Tonight I hurt in the silence. And this kind of silent hurting and yearning is something I can’t help but throw myself into feet first. Of course I don’t want to hurt this much, and I don’t consciously intend to dwell on it, but I’d rather be honest about my loss than pretend I’m fine when I’m definitely not fucking fine.

I am soothed by the rhythmic ticking of a clock. I am all cocooned in this room-my loneliness and longing is contained within four plasterboard walls. Tonight the ticking clock is like a heart beat to me, reminding me of what I would have heard booming out in my mother’s womb- back then when we were connected and I was sustained by that cord of umbilical life.

In the womb, she breathed for me in those early weeks. I was fed by her. She helped me grow and develop from tiny seed to mini alien to pink newborn screechy creature wrapped in snow white terry toweling.

How can I possibly forget her?

How can any child forget their mother?

You may not like them, you may not even love them, but I dare you to be able to try and forget them- try it. I think you’ll find it’s impossible.

What have I got to replace her, or who have I got?

I no longer have contact with any human who has known me all thirty six years of my life.

No one who was there from the beginning is still present.

I am left just with me.

My therapist can’t be a substitute. That’s just FREAKY, and my therapist won’t be around much longer I would imagine.

She will go and continue to nurture other damaged people, for a living.

In my real/non-therapy life I have existed for 36 years, but the longest relationship I’ve sustained is not 36 years, but 20.

Twenty years is the length of time I have been with my husband. The initial sixteen years before that were lived in a climate of fear within my family unit, but no one is around from that era to even validate to me that it even ever happened.

But I know it happened. I know.

The past lives on in the present and future, without the people physically being present to kick or punch or administer chinese burns to in protest for the PTSD shit storm they created.

I have a small number of photographs and a whole internal photo album of memories and cine tapes that play in my mind, but I don’t have my mum anymore even though she is still alive.

I’m bitter about that, very bitter and very lost.

Is she sat quietly in her room tonight, looking out at the inky blackness of the dark skies, wondering about me? Her daughter?

When she hears a ticking clock, is it just a ticking clock to her? Or does she hear my heartbeat, just as I would wish to imagine I am hearing and feeling and imagining hers.

I’ll never know, will I.

SummerSHINES