Mental Health Update August 2018

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Just what it says on the tin.

I was doing so well. Volunteering with a suicide prevention helpline, making tentative plans to see actual people out in the actual world, had a mini-vacation with my husband and kids… now I’m spiralling. Down, not up, but not happy… just anxious.

I got 5 hours of sleep Saturday night, and less than 4 last night, despite being exhausted both nights. The real acid test is this, though: I couldn’t sleep right now, in broad daylight, with another adult in the house, despite being so tired I’ve had a fatigue headache since before going to sleep this morning (it was light outside before I dozed off, despite having been in bed for 5+ hours, at that point). I just can’t switch off enough to rest.

If it makes me feel any better (it does not) I have yet more evidence that social media is the trigger. I joined a large Facebook group about a week ago, and I’ve been more and more cheerful each day–as soon as I got some genuinely negative feedback in the group, eventually getting one of my posts removed (they disliked a pic I shared, despite it being a legitimate reference to the overarching theme of the group) I was ripping at my nails, crying a little bit, starting to hyperventilate, the whole 9 yards. I tried to move on; I engaged in what I thought was going to be a civil discussion on a friend’s FB Wall.

After a few opening comments were made (both by me, and by other people) some random suggested I “find something more productive to do with my time” rather than joining in a discussion between several of my friends, and someone I’ve known for the best part of a decade liked the comment.

The same guy (who has never met me, as far as I know) went on to call me self-righteous, a horrible person, not a real friend of my friend, etc, because….? I genuinely don’t know. I didn’t launch a single ad hominem attack at him, nor at anybody else.

I can’t understand why my “friend” would like me being bullied (that’s what it is, when someone singles just you out, tells you to leave the conversation that’s open to everyone, and then starts hurling abuse at you). I don’t understand what to do about it.

Yes, I do. It’s just hard. Wish me luck.

Writer’s Block

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This is what happens when you ignore the urge to write, 2 or 3 days in a row… you come back to your blog and realise it’s been nearly a month since you last added an entry.

I wonder if this is standard, even for professional authors; is the main thing getting in their way, their own inability to stay focused and make time to write?

Whether this is a common problem or just mine, I need to once and for all nip it in the bud. I don’t think I necessarily need to write every day, or when I’ve nothing to say–but when I *do* feel the need for catharsis, I should woman-up and get my not-so-little butt online. I’ve been the North American, overweight, living version of a screaming banshee (bean sidhe, if you want the traditional spelling–my sister did a high school project on Celtic mythology, way back when) for about 3 weeks now… which coincides nicely with the first time I felt the urge to write, and pushed it aside.

It’s not about whether or not I have talent, or whether I’m boring people by writing this blog–that’s utterly irrelevant–the point is, getting this stuff off my chest makes a real (probably measurable) difference to my mood, and my effect on the people around me.

So, for them, I’m going to do it. After approximately 29 years of writing, I’m going to set a daily writing alarm.

Wish me luck!

My Narcissistic Ex

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I finally blocked him, not that long ago–my mental health has only improved, in subsequent weeks.

During our final conversation, I told him that he’d had no right to start a relationship with someone who was mentally ill, unless he was willing to make the sacrifices they needed in order to continue improving their mental health.

He argued with me for an hour, I’d guess, accusing me of everything from saying mentally ill folk don’t deserve romance to lying about my motives. The sum total of his words were: “how dare you not accept the crumbs of my attention I’m willing to give you, the weeks or months of not talking, and then not be thrilled to hear from me when I finally deign to reply to your message or send one of my own–my girlfriend is mentally ill, and her needs come first.”

Throughout the entire conversation, he kept making references like the above, which let me know: he thought I was talking about when he began his relationship with his current girlfriend, who has Borderline Personality Disorder.

He never once understood that my words were an indictment against the years he spent deceiving me, lying to my face, and pretending that I “deserved” to be treated that way (abused, in a word) because he didn’t agree with the morality of some of my life choices.

I wasn’t talking about her, you pure-blind narcissistic idiot–the person you’re looking at is not necessarily the person at the top of everyone else’s thoughts.

I was talking about me: about the suicidal ideation that you were bored of hearing about (in pretty much those words: bored, tired of, doesn’t make an impact anymore….) the self-harm that I tried to hide from you (yet you *still* shouted at me for doing it, after following me into the bathroom to watch me shower) and most of all, the insistence that it wasn’t abuse to scream obscenities at me, call me ugly names, shove/restrain/throw things at/hit me, or coerce me into sex when I was so obviously stiff and scared and not in the mood.

I’m sorry for her, because she’s not equipped to deal with you, and you’ll take advantage, because that’s what you do… but, as ever, until I finally gave up the fight, I wanted you to just once acknowledge how you treated *me*.

Robert Wright…

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…is my go-to, out of a large-ish group of current intellectuals who debate everything from the implications of particle physics, to whether or not religion is good, bad, or indifferent, to the trajectory of society in general.

I’m currently reading his book (shortlisted for a Pulitzer–fancy!) “The Evolution of God,” and I watch one of his talks more or less daily. To date, this is still my favourite Robert Wright talk, not least of all because it covers a subject I enjoyed learning about during my psychology degree… maybe more important to me personally, I think reminders of ways we can work towards a better world are darn useful, when my depression is bad.

Robert Wright’s “NonZero Sum Game Talk”

It’s 20 minutes of your life you’ll be glad you spared–he’s clever, amusing, not bad-looking, and because he himself is not wildly optimistic by nature, his optimism feels more accessible to someone like me.

I hope it’s accessible to someone like you, as well.

“O Robin, Our Robin”

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This is imported from one of my other blogs; my sister commented today that although I’ve seemed alright “for a minute” (meaning: months, but this kind of figurative language is always hard for me) she always keeps me in mind, when she sees posts about suicidal ideation etc.

I wrote this a couple of years ago, now, for the then-only-just-deceased Robin Williams… I wanted to fix it, to make it better for the anniversary of his death, but it’s been a busy year and this is what I’ve got. I’d rather post it than not, though.

This is *not* “O Captain, My Captain,” nor even a decent parody (the rhyme scheme ran away with itself, and I was powerless to stop it; there are too many syllables at many points, and at least one extra stanza) but it most certainly *is* an homage to that poem, to Walt Whitman, to the movie “Dead Poets Society” and, most of all, to Robin Williams, the… oh, fuck it. He was a legend, and I don’t have the words, but here’s my best attempt.
If you’re somewhere reading it, Robin, I hope you’re touched by my efforts. You were such a generous human being, I know you won’t judge me for the many stylistic errors.

“O Robin, Our Robin”

O Captain, my Captain–
You jumped the fucking ship?
You’re overboard, we’re over-bored
Without your perfect quips.

Don’t get me wrong, the voyage long was more than you could bear
I get the why, it’s just that I
can’t stop my useless tears.

And oh fuck! Wank! Shit!
Oh the movies never made!
Oh the vast routines where genius gleams
now stuck in endless shade!

O Captain, my Captain, how have we lost your spark,
When o’er the world your jokes unfurl
to chase away the dark?

Oh Captain, our brother,
We’d share with you our pills
Our memories bright of how your light
has lessened all our ills.

Although he does not answer,
Although his family weeps,
I think I’m right, this is just night
And he’s merely fast asleep.

His lamp unrubbed, his lines un-flubbed
To Orson he does not fly;
In a jungle great he merely waits for an 8, perhaps a 5.

Posting More; My Son, 1

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It looks as if I’m posting a bit more, these days; I can live with that. The day will come when I actually finish one of my half-completed/barely-started novels, and I’ll want to have an audience standing by *wink, but I’m semi-serious*

I thought I’d talk about my son, today; I can hear him in the other room, shouting excitedly and unreservedly about what’s happening on the Wii, rarely making the clearest, most linear sense, but always manufacturing joy as if it’s a thing that can be bottled; and he’s so loud and so animated that, if he keeps it up too long, the neighbours will likely bang on the wall.

I don’t care, to be honest…. the kids have lived in this house their entire lives, not counting weekends at their dad’s, and none of my neighbours has once asked me if I needed help raising 2 autistic kids (including during the period after I asked their dad to leave, and I was juggling a 10-month-old and almost-3-year-old with severe autism by myself, 5-6 days a week, on 3-4 hours of sleep a night…) bang on the walls, you small-minded, compassionless wretches.

Despite living next door and sharing a wall with us (terraced housing) you weren’t there, when my babies were actual babies, were you? You don’t remember a thing from when my 2 were tiny, and it was all I could do to keep them happy and healthy and safe. But *I* still remember that my Gabriel didn’t make a single purposeful sound (no babbling, no nothing, other than laughing or crying) until he was 3-years-old, and that his first “word” was, “1, 2, 3.” In a week, Gabriel could count to 10 and read the numbers. A week after that, he said, “Issa a dack. Wah wah wah.”

When he spoke for the first time, we thought it was a genuine miracle, befitting a child with an angel’s name… after all, by then, his sister (aged 5, at the time) had stopped speaking altogether; to this day, I believe it was only his determination to interact with her, that got her to begin trying to speak, again. (Nearly 12 now, she’s still functionally non-verbal, and far, far behind even her peers with complex needs, when it comes to spoken language–without my son’s encouragement, I very much doubt if she would speak at all. She didn’t, for the best part of 2 years, age 3 to age 5.)

That’s Gabriel, though. Whatever my feelings about the almost ludicrously fundamentalist way I was raised, the idea that I was right to name him after an angel persists. Even now, almost 10 years old, he is made of weather that’s mostly sunshine, full of bounce and energy and enthusiasm, and even when his skies are stormy, all he wants is to feel better, to be helped, to be better himself.

For my daughter, he can get her to smile and play when no one else can. I didn’t mean to have him be her caretaker; but it’s a role he seems happy to fulfil, and she reciprocates in the ways that she can. *She* might get cross with him, but woe betide anyone who tries to hurt her little brother… she finds her voice then, if the words still elude her.

For me, he’s everything that made parenting a little lighter. She was every profound and worthy and solemn feeling I’d ever had, rolled into one; he was no less deeply loved, but those same feelings were lit from within, by the light he generates simply by being himself. Between the pair of them, my light and my shade, my extrovert and my introvert, my morning sun and my evening star, they have taught me how to be a mother.

Why I’m Grateful for My Husband, 1

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I started my period, today.

I wasn’t really expecting to; I was rather expecting *not* to start it, for another 9 months or so, if you catch my drift.

As I have 2 children from my previous marriage, and my husband only has my kids, there was temptation to spread some blame around… the temptation was made worse, not better, by the fact that I know fine well I’m nearly 10 years older than my husband; if one of us has faulty plumbing, it could well be me. My Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) got diagnosed more than 12 years ago, when I was struggling to get pregnant in my early 20s, and they said I had suspected endometriosis at the time, as well as ovaries covered with tiny cysts. But lo, I became pregnant before I could be checked for endo, and had 2 kids, and to be honest, I thought I was done with the whole birthing children thing, so I let them take me off their waiting lists and such-like… no further tests needed.

And then all the things happened that sometimes do, and I got divorced and re-partnered, and had a stint of polyamory (I’ll never know whether that would’ve worked out, if I hadn’t gotten too attached to someone who treated me like shit once he realised I wasn’t going to break my original partner’s heart just to please him)… and eventually, I wound up being left, falling in love with my best friend, and (in a sad turn of events) leaving my original partner in the end anyway.

That’s my first reason to be grateful: someone who knew me a little through mutual friends, acquaintances, and some pretty hardcore frenemies, had one half hour conversation with me, followed by one all-night conversation with me (yes, a literal conversation: don’t be like “treated me like shit” guy and accuse me of the other) and chucked out all the rubbish he’d maybe assumed, and got to know me as I am.

Then, while I was at my very lowest (weeks after my stepdad’s suicide, in the middle of my university dissertation, and during the portion of my relationship with “treats-like-shit” where he’d escalated it to physical abuse and was actually kind of scary to be around) my best friend started coming over and sleeping on the couch opposite me (we each had a couch, we slept not touching, except for sometimes holding hands). I felt safe for the first time in months; I felt understood and genuinely liked for the first time in years, or maybe ever.

And ditto for him, on that last part of the above sentence.

My second reason to be grateful is that he believed me, when I said I wanted to be with him forever, even if it was platonically… I didn’t care if we never slept together, aside from the literal sense of it–I wanted him nearby, where I could hug him and talk to him every day, and he wanted the same thing. When it evolved into my helping him overcome some sexual hang-ups, I was thrilled. When–some months thereafter–it became a genuine, reciprocal, sexual and romantic relationship (after he’d moved in with me) it ruined all my other romances and potential romances… we hurt one person, and I’m sorry, but he actively wanted to share me, and I wanted to stop being shared. It is possible to be spread too thin… and I am grateful my now-husband understood that.

The third reason I have to be grateful (and all I’ve got time for; it’s canny early/late, depending how you look at it) is that, after several months of being absurdly in love (including a whirlwind engagement and wedding) we felt secure enough to stop using my family planning app to avoid pregnancy, and start using it to increase my chances of pregnancy. I’m still taking my temperature (almost) daily, with a super-sensitive thermometer, and I still know within 24-48 hours of when I’ll be ovulating, menstruating, when my PMS might start, etc… and every time I start my period, after thinking maybe this month I won’t–when I’m irritable and bitchy and then dissolve into pointless tears–my husband listens to me, holds me if I need it and gives me space if I need that, and just generally puts up with my shit (and remember, I’m not THAT far out of an abusive relationship… I’ve still got quite some emotional baggage, to be dealing with) every time all that happens, I’m more grateful than ever, for my husband.

I just wouldn’t mind a reason to be grateful that looked like (a smaller, plumper, arguably cuter version of) my husband, is all… and I sure wouldn’t mind giving him another tangible reason to be grateful for me.

One Post a Month–My Daughter

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Look at my blog. I haven’t looked in any depth, but I feel sure I’ve noticed this trend on numerous occasions, and it certainly holds true for this month and last month.

What is it that makes things seem so much sharper (things past or present, or future worries) in this week of the month, every single month? I have very regular periods… I’m guessing it’s therefore something to do with my menstrual cycle. For whatever reason, at this point in the month, I feel more creative, but also more sensitive. I’m actually not hugely productive; I’m too busy trying to quietly deal with all the stuff that hurts me all the time, but is worse this week.

Tonight, I was lucky. My daughter (I’ve got to stop calling her my little girl–she’ll be 12 soon, and autism or no autism, she’s becoming a woman so fast the changes are more visible each month) was hysterically upset, self-harming, and saying she hated us all and wanted to live somewhere else… but she calmed down relatively quickly. I asked her to lie down in my bed, turned the big light off, and rubbed her back and shoulders and then her head (which she’d been hitting) as I suggested ways to make her feel better. I told her some stories about what she was like as a baby (she loves that, for now at least) and after a while, she felt safe again and went back to her room. Later, she came back to sit with me, and I wrote her some limericks (not THAT kind of limerick; a child-friendly limerick about her toy goat, another about her brother’s toy goat, another about her dad’s cat, etc) and it was glorious to see that she understood what I meant when I explained about an A, A, B, B, A rhyme scheme.

I don’t have any particular expectation that she’ll remember anything about rhyme schemes tomorrow, or be able to sound out one herself, even with prompting; but I don’t have any expectation that she won’t, either. She is the queen of keeping herself to herself, especially if she thinks she might have to demonstrate her learning before an audience (a prospect which visibly terrifies her) and so, as with so many things in our lives, we’ll have to wait and see.

There’s something ironic in the fact that one of the few sentences my daughter can utter, even in extremes of despair or stress when other words have vanished from her grasp, is a vehement and slightly guttural, “I HATE waiting!” Oh, Naomi. I know you do, baby. I know. And we’ve been waiting all your life, to see if you’ll catch up to other kids, to see what your diagnosis will be, to see if you’ll ever talk again, to see how many of the words might eventually find their way back to you.

No. That’s wrong. I won’t take her successes away from her–the words didn’t just fly back of their own accord, she went out and searched for them, and found all the ones she lost and some more besides. If she has fewer words at her disposal than most 5-year-olds, and fewer still when she’s in distress, that’s still thousands of words more than she had when she was 3, when ALL the words had disappeared. But I digress.

Lucky. I am so, so lucky. She and her brother have been my joy for so long, even with all the worry and fear and heartache being a mother causes, I can’t remember what joy was from before they got here. Did I ever truly feel it? Maybe as a very small child, when it was mostly just me, my own mother, my baby sister, and our dog (Pepper) and our cat (Miss Molly) and my dad was mostly not there, but sometimes there, and he didn’t *always* shout at Mama, and sometimes my Mimi (my dad’s mom) would let me come over and she would feed me a whole bowl of blueberries, deliciously cold from the fridge and sprinkled with sugar, and I knew I was her favourite grandchild and that everyone who met me loved me and thought I was clever and special.

But since those days–which came to an abrupt halt the summer I was 3–the truest joy I have felt began with the birth of my children. From the moment she arrived, I have loved Naomi more than I thought it was possible to love another human being, and I genuinely thought I loved my parents and siblings and close friends with all of my heart… I was wrong. I didn’t know. Naomi taught me unconditional love, and I am so lucky for having her.

If I could change one thing in the whole world, though, I would make it so that *she* could be the one who feels lucky… and I don’t have any way to do that. I guess she’ll have to keep waiting.

Ways He Hurt Me “Accidentally” 1

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I like to shop. I browse eBay and Facebook sale pages, combing through random items to find something I can wear. I have pretty bad acne scars on a lot of my body; I really need clothes that go up as high as possible in the back, which significantly limits my clothing choices, especially during Spring and Summer, or when I’m looking for occasion wear/party clothes/going out gear. Additionally, I have differently sized breasts (an A cup and not-quite-a-C cup) so a lot of tops or dresses hang funnily (on a visible slant) making me look messy or unkempt, no matter what I do. So despite being 4 dress sizes smaller than I was as a teenager–and being really pleased about that–I still have a number of issues, both body-image-based and practical, when going shopping.

He used to mock me for wearing “that same dress” over and over again–sometimes, we’d walk into a store with dresses of a certain cut, and he’d start laughing and pointing out how my one dress was on the wall. It was as if he couldn’t understand that the reason I refuse to wear dresses with low backs, is because numerous people audibly let out a shocked gasp when they see my upper back unexpectedly. It almost always happens the first time someone new sees me with my back exposed, but some people do it more than once. A GP once saw my back (after I had *warned* him how bad it was, after I had made an appointment to talk about my skin) gasped loudly, and said, “Yes, I see what you mean. We’re not talking dermatology, we’re talking a referral to plastic surgery, but they won’t be able to do anything for you.” This, despite the obvious flare-up of leaking, painful cysts that I really wanted treatment for… but nope. Even a trained medical professional couldn’t see past the ruined surface of my skin to the fact that there was physical pain and I needed help for it.

Yet my “partner” (I use the term so, so loosely) couldn’t seem to understand the emotional cost to me, of wearing a dress that was revealing in the back. He persisted in buying me dresses that had deep, v-shaped backs, and being wounded when I wouldn’t wear them outside of the house unless I could wear a cardigan or something with them (despite the fact that I would wear them around the house, out of thankfulness that he’d bought me something, yes something of limited use, but I was taking his gifts at face value and being grateful for them).

Once, I said I wanted to choose a dress, if he really wanted to buy me something–I was, again, assuming that he’d just forgotten how my skin makes me feel, and not actively trying to force me to wear things that appealed to him yet made me feel like shit–and I loaded up eBay or some other site, and did my usual. I set the sort function to show me highest price heading to lowest price, because if you do it the other way, you can easily creep up on things that are more expensive than you can afford (you just keep clicking ahead to the next page and before you know it, you’ve gone £100 over your pre-set budget and you’re looking at a dress you’d never buy). Whereas if you start off thinking, “Not these dresses, you can’t justify spending that much, but you may as well look at them and see if anyone is selling them cheaper in a few pages,” then even if you don’t find anything, you’ve let yourself down gently.

“No, you can’t do that–that’s not fair!” he said, as soon as I set the filters. I stopped and stared; I was genuinely puzzled; it took me several minutes to work out that he thought I was deliberately trying to spend as much of his money as possible (an odd belief, when I repeatedly told him to stop throwing money at me, over the course of the relationship; towards the end, I started sending him electronic rent for the room that he was meant to be letting me stay in 2-3 days a week, despite *him* refusing to take the money each month when I offered it).

It sounds silly, but my feelings were so incredibly hurt by that shopping incident. Who assumes that (after they have *badgered* you into accepting a gift from them) you’re out to take as much of their money as possible? And–he had been shopping with me in stores before, many times, and seen me look at the expensive or designer rails, before moving to the cheaper stuff; and then once I was looking at the cheaper stuff, that’s when I would tell him that if he really wanted to get me something, could he make it from that side of the shop (because as I was fond of telling him, I was a student and stay-at-home mom, and didn’t *need* designer clothing or evening dresses, etc).

But he was like that about so many things–if there was any possible way of viewing anything I did unkindly, he chose to view it that way… and then punished me for it (mocking me for not wearing the things he thought I should, assuming in every instance that I was out for something other than what I had stated, accusing me of manipulating him by leaving the house, despite the fact that I was usually leaving because he’d followed me from room to room screaming at me over some transgression or other, and would not stop and let me go to bed…).

There’s no easy way to look back on all this and not feel like an idiot; he used to essentially throw money at me, refuse to let me pay my own way, actively hide our relationship from some people, and then when I said I felt like a prostitute, he’d shout and scream and “how very dare you accuse me of treating you that way,” all over the place… what a moron, eh? I should have known how he felt about me the first time he shamed me into wearing something he’d bought (that was too short, low-cut in the back, and in colours that I would never choose to wear) because, well, he’d spent the money and I should be thankful for his gifts.