Mental illness bags…

My new song is really good. It’s REALLY good. I don’t think I have ever written anything this good before. It may be the best thing I’ve ever written. I think I should record it. Oh! And maybe my sister can make a video for it. I reckon I have another EP in me. It could be called ‘Shoes’…thats been my theme for like a year now and there’s a line in the song that references it and I can’t believe what a cool idea that is! We could do an Ep launch…I could write song lyrics on shoes and have them hanging from the ceiling! I should start planning it now. Maybe I will film myself singing it first…OH WAIT NO! We film The band! YES! Get those sweet harmonies on…

I wonder where we could have the launch…venues in Lincoln are slowly dying a death! Maybe I could do it somewhere completely off the bat! Like outside…a secret location! Leave clues online…BLACK OUT MY SOCIAL MEDIA! Holy shit! I should do that. People won’t know what the hell is going on…and then BAM! EP launch! Secret location! Follow the trail of shoes to the event…which will be under a bridge in the middle of nowhere! hahahahaha WHAT FUN!

I’m staring into the mirror without realising that I’ve stopped all movement and have probably been like that for the last fifteen mins. My eyes refocus and my partner is stood before me holding some bags I recognise and haven’t seen for …well, I don’t remember.

He shows me them and says “I found these in the shoe cupboard…there’s some juggling balls, a few picture frames and a watercolour set in one of them..not sure about the other. What do you want me to do with them!”

My stream of consciousness has been rudely interrupted and all I feel is white hot RAGE. I’ve never felt so angry before in my life.

“Why are you showing me these? Why are you rubbing this in my face?”

His face goes from neutral to very, very afraid. This is not the reaction he was expecting…he fumbles words…

I continue….the torrent has been unleashed.

“Why would you find my mental illness bags and then show them to me whilst I am getting ready for work?”

He finds words. “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. I just wanted to know where you wanted me to put them…!”

I know I am being unreasonable. I know this is ridiculous but I burst into tears.

“I’m sorry. I should move out. I’ll leave you. I’m sorry I hide project bags around the house and forget about them! You really don’t deserve this…”

I sob and mumble apologies and become a pathetic mush of nonsense. He really doesn’t understand this reaction but comforts me anyway. He puts the offensive bags somewhere out of site.

I call my Mum. She finds the whole thing extremely funny and before long, I do too. She gets it. My Step-Dad overhears the whole story and laughs, shouting in the background “Don’t worry Scott it’s not you! It’s usually either PMS or Bipolar!”…I can’t tell if I find this offensive or hilarious and opt to feel both, because I can.

The thing with being bipolar is. You don’t always remember you have it. You don’t always SEE yourself or the things you do.

When I’m feeling super humanly, creative and awesome I collect and purchase all sorts of wonderful toys for me to play with…am obsessed with…I put them into bags and then I hide them somewhere and forget about them. That burning desire gone. Replaced by the next obsession. They hide in the cupboards, under the sink, in forgotten corners. Not ugly. Not dirty. Not even that messy but they’re like shame monsters. A reminder that underneath all my shiny there is ‘disorder’.

It wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t to blame. This was me caught up in my mania fantasy not being able to face the reality of my illness. I was furious and upset to see PHYSICAL evidence that I had been struggling recently.

Those bags were more than JUST bags. They’re my mental illness bags. Mum collects them too. She’s like me. She got it.

“They should add it to the psychiatric evaluation! Do you collect mental illness bags!”

With hindsight this was one of the funniest ‘over-reactions’ to a bag of juggling balls that has ever been.

#bipolar #mentalhealth #funny #mentalhealthmatters

 

…a search for answers

I sit at our large living room table surrounded by unopened letters, months worth of them, maybe even over a years worth. I’m crying as I rip them open, glance at the contents and guide them into the shredder.

I do this silently, tears on my cheeks.

My partner is frowning and concerned. I returned from my doctors appointment and wordlessly proceeded my onslaught on the ‘letter pile’.

His eyes ask wordless questions. 

He comes behind me and wraps me into his arms silently, letting me cry, not offering advice just letting me be.

Eventually my pile is over and my next task takes me to my spare room. I look at the array of guitars, abandoned art work, boxes from impulsive online purchases and I see it as though for the first time and begin trying to sift through the chaos. I find four different aprons in different styles. I find watercolour pencils, two sets, almost identical. I find crochet and knitting projects from a wool obsessed phase I went through and I have no idea how to feel about any of this. I have three electric guitars and two acoustic guitars that don’t get played.

What on Earth is wrong with me?

Within the last few months a close friend had committed suicide, my sister had attempted to murder my mother and the person I loved and respected the most was fighting terminal cancer, whilst her husband (my Granddad) struggled as a carer and battled suicidal thoughts.

Thus ensued a period of time where my brain had fired up. Lit up inspiration like fireworks and the compulsion to indulge every creative whim.

Say, ‘yes’ to everything. Keep busy. Don’t stop. Lie awake at night with a racing heart and racing thoughts and think about anything other than the things that hurt.

Stay obsessed. Always. It doesn’t matter what it is. You’re a musician, you need an electric guitar and you need all of those effects pedals as well. Spend money, it doesn’t matter because it will be worth it when you make those sparking thoughts a reality.

I’m an artist, I have this amazing idea for an art series I think people will really respond to. I’ll get some more supplies and get started on that. Maybe even open an Etsy store! I could make it my part time job and then, who knows?

Be there emotionally for anyone that needs you. Other peoples problems and issues are way more important than your own.

Be on social media ALL THE TIME! Present a smiling face, take pictures of all the amazing creative things you are doing. Share those inspirational flashes of insight that strike at stupid o’clock. Also you are hilarious right now, people wanna hear that shit. That random thought about dog nipples should be online. You’re so fucking funny.

Socialise! A LOT! As much as possible. Silence isn’t acceptable. Noise. Lot’s of noise. Constant. Doesn’t matter where it comes from. Noisy brain. Talking. Talk a lot and fast. Jokes. So many jokes.

No sleep. Don’t sleep. Darkness waits there.

Don’t open letters. Letters contain reality. Letters demand clarity. Letters are mundane and boring.

Housework is not important. Self care is not important. All that matters is those ideas you can’t let go of.

Until…..

it all just

stops.

The darkness waits and you are engulfed.

Nightmares crowd in. Waking in the night screaming and sweating and crying. Any inspiration has simply faded away, replaced by a hole. A hole that nothing could fill.

I really don’t care about music or art or other peoples problems anymore.

All those plans that I made? Cancelled. I am a flake. I can’t come out anymore. I know I said I would do that ‘thing’ you wanted me to do but I can’t.

I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t.

Friends are enemies. They don’t like me. I should probably hide away for a while. I have been really full on lately, they must be sick of me. I’m pretty sure everyone is talking about me.

Social media is the devil. Something happens online and I absolutely lose…my…shit.

I Don’t think about it. I don’t take time to try and rationalise. I make my conclusion and start building walls.

I think about suicide. Almost casually. I get in the car and I stare into space and think about driving off a bridge.

This all builds up until I genuinely feel like I can’t live anymore. So, I got to the doctors.

I sit at the doctors and explain that I went sober, I suffer with the occasional bouts of depression and I don’t know what’s wrong with me. He briefly asks me about my family history and an eyebrow is raised when I mention the term “Bi-polar”.

“Have you ever considered that you may suffer with bi-polar yourself, there is research that suggests it can be genetic?” He asks over steepled fingers.

My mouth drops and I frown. It takes a while for me to respond and all I can muster is a very lame “No…I don’t think I ever thought about it seriously before”

I leave with a referral to a psychiatrist.

I call my Mum. “Oh! sweet heart, I have suspected it for a while but didn’t know how to talk to you about it..”

What?

What the hell?

I go home feeling confused. I spot the massive pile of letters and I burst into tears.

***to be continued***

#mentalhealth #bipolar #sobriety #autobiographical #writing #growth

 

 

 

the tale of sexy, dead, urban, Eeyore…and drunk Satan

I’m creating massive brown circles around my eyes with a makeup brush as per the, Youtube tutorial, and right now I look more like a heroin addict than a ‘zombie’. It’s fine. I am creative. I can make this shit look good.

I have exactly half an hour to pull this together or bail on the night completely.

I am not feeling it. Today is definitely a nope day.

and tonight…

Well tonight would have been the perfect night to get well and truly shit faced. White girl wasted.

Drinking to excess on halloween is a GIVEN! AND I am playing music tonight, an even better reason to sink a few tinnies and sexy dance against a radiator in the corner…

But, no. I am well and truly a sober goddess. I am queen sobriety. I am zen itself. I got my shit together people. I am a CHANGED woman.

…only right now, I am an anxiety attack. Over tired. Burnt out. The usual stomach ache from family drama and tragedy that follows me no matter how far away I live or how much I ignore my phone. If I cancel I’ll have to go into the ‘why’ of it all and I can’t do that. If I do that then I’ll have to face it as a reality myself and I have work and, life to be getting on with.

So i’ll swallow it like bile and smile and take my guitar and dress like a slutty, dead, whatever and it will be FINE!

My face is nearly done. I look dead. This is my low budget attempt at halloween but really, how hard is it? You don’t need to break the bank or even visit a shop for halloween. Trust me. Just some pale ass foundation which; let’s face it, every girl has anyway, some kohl eyeliner, dubiously red lipstick for that ‘bloody’ effect and you’re good to go. Throw on a semi slutty outfit and – VIOLA!

I reflect as I stare at my now gaunt looking face over what tonight would look like if I were to drink. The mood I am in right now…if I were to get drunk on top of that…I would be. Satan. I would be Satan.

Drunk Satan. Vile and angry and ready for a fight. Ready to disagree with anyone who got in my way. Or didn’t get in my way for that matter. I’d just wade in, and insist myself into conversations and friendship groups who didn’t want me there and just spew my inner hideousness out all over the place. Start on the taxi driver. Go home and wake my sleeping innocent boyfriend and shout at him.

Instead I zip up my Eeyore onesie up to my frilly black bra, which I allow to peek through slightly. I smear on some red lipstick and take it into the black cracks I’ve made with  smokey black eyeliner. I don some tacky gold chains, large hoop ear rings and survey the look….

I am sexy, dead, urban, Eeyore. Happy Halloween.

I am late to the party. I arrive and sexy, dead, urban, Eeyore is a hit. I get nods and approval.

I sit outside with Scooby doo and dead Snow White and I smoke a stress cigarette…

I know. I KNOW! Smoking is bad. I know smoking is bad. I know I shouldn’t do it. But I’m anxious…OK! It’s been a stressful month and I just need to take the edge off. I need something to occupy my hands and mouth that isn’t a bottle of vodka. I’M NOT DRINKING. But this..this is temporary, because if I don’t have something. I’ll hit the booze. Or hit myself. Or hit someone.

It’s mainly a social anxiety thing. It’s mainly when I go out when I don’t want to but I have some sort of obligation to be there…anyway….I digress…

The night is a blur, I never peak into the same level of; ‘comfortably having a swell time’ that everyone else does but it isn’t, awful. I play my set and people smile and say I did a good job but I know when I’ve had a good gig and that was sub-par…BUT it’s, ok. I made it. I showed up. I’m sober. I am sexy, dead, urban, Eeyore. I made a damn effort.

I start to enjoy myself until I see it happen. There is a point where suddenly every single person around me is really drunk. Really drunk. They’re falling over. They’re slurring, They’re telling the same story over and over and they have no respect for personal boundaries. Drunk people spit a lot? Did you know this?

…and it’s fine. I remember this. It’s ok for them to be that way because my alcohol problem isn’t EVERYONE else’s problem, BUT it is definitely my cue to leave. Once people start crushing my body with their drunk affection it’s time for me to go.

I don’t hate them for it. I just don’t know how to respond. I can’t meet them there. Especially not tonight. Sometimes you just know when you need to leave a party.

Some girl tries to squirt a shot of whiskey into my mouth using a syringe, and when I tell her I don’t drink she squirts it into my hair….I have whisky hair. Eeyore is not happy about this…

….anyway…

when I eventually make it home, I wash the whiskey out of my hair. I am no longer sexy, dead, urban, Eeyore. I take all the makeup off and put on my very boring but very soft pyjamas and I smile…because at least, I wasn’t drunk Satan.

at least I wasn’t drunk Satan.

…and every night I get through, without drunk Satan, is a success.

 

#sobriety #noboozehughes #soberlifestyle #mentalhealth

This is not a relapse of the flesh…

My brain turns you into monsters

Taking little pieces of my flesh

And turning me into a change you should be making yourself

My body a doormat you wipe your feet on

Leaving dirt

And wet leaves

 

I can’t tell if its’ you or me because

in my mind they are the same

as I I recoil into the moss

wrap its damp around my torso

and let myself sink…

the weight of guilt

a diamond in my chest

a treasure to be held onto

the only thing left

 

I am trying to save you

As I use the last reserves of strength to hold you up

Whilst beneath my legs snap

And my breath comes no more

 

I step into the beige

And become one with it

 

I wear the mask of a maniac

My laughter hot on your ears

As I soak you in

And try to make sense of you

So, I can spit you out again

And make people vomit.

 

Do you mind if I light a cigarette?

Because I have seen the slow death and already it has me

 

This is not a relapse of the flesh.

I have not drank from the cup of sin

Because the sin is inside of me

And I no longer need a sip to reveal my true self.

….a false sense of security.

It’s 17months this Thursday since I quit alcohol.

Honestly?

It’s been a hard month.

The deepest darkest lows of alcoholism are so far away from me now, those black pits specks on the horizon and my resolve wavers.

Was it that bad?

I seem to be doing really well in life. I’ve learnt a lot and really managed to deal with some unresolved issues…

Maybe I could drink again and it wouldn’t be that bad…It HAS been such a long time. I could drink and do so moderately. Mindfully. That’s a thing right? Maybe at weddings? Or festivals?

The issue with having an addictive personality is having a constant internal itch inside that you don’t know how to scratch. I go to the pub and I drink far too much diet coke. I get addicted to tea and coffee, I drink it in unnatural amounts because excess is my drug! I am an addict for MORE. It can be anything. Sex. Food. Love.

I just want to stuff something inside of me and feel temporary change. I don’t know how to explain any other way. In a way it’s like being starving but nothing satiates!

I told myself I would never write a blog when feeling sad, when feeling low. When knowing this state is temporary and not a constant.

The truth, is THIS is sobriety. Not just the highs. Not just the cleverly worded and well written prose of those gifted by hindsight.

Fact is. I know some people look up to me for being open about my sobriety journey. Some people find it impressive and inspirational that I have found it so easy. I didn’t realise it until recently but there has been a certain level of pressure for me to find this easy or rather to APPEAR to never struggle. So that maybe someone will look at me and feel inspired for a change, because it isn’t that bad.

Sometimes it IS easy.

Recently it’s hard.

I think it’s important for me to talk about this bit. The ugly bit. The bit you don’t want to hear because we all want to see someone do it and do it with grace and ease; otherwise it might put you off.

My life is sometimes full of art and music. I am surrounded by poets and writers and people that fill my life with colour and inspiration. There are days where I am so high on life and cannot believe how wonderful it all is. I can’t believe I didn’t self destruct. I can’t believe my saboteur didn’t win.

…and then I’m working a lot, in a job that makes me feel trapped. I haven’t seen my partner in days and the laundry is piled high. I’m SO tired. My brain feels too big for my skull and my sleep is the sleep of the exhausted. Without dreams. I miss my family but they live far away and I haven’t had the time off to go and see them. I’ve come off anti depressants and am feeling the changes. Often my anxiety or depersonalisation rears it’s head and it gets a bit much.

I try and recapture the magic but inside my body isn’t receptive. I go to the pub and I want to drink. I want to drink because I can’t remember why I don’t drink? I just want to feel the same thing everyone else is feeling. I want to drink and I want it to be the right answer this time.

Instead I go outside and I smoke a roll up cigarette. I rationalise this in my head because it’s only ONE and at least it isn’t booze. I tell people “this is my little bit of naughty – I am allowed a bit of naughty” because in my head its the lesser evil. Then I go home and I smell and my mouth tastes bad. I get a smoke headache and feel groggy the next day.

Would it be better to just have a shandy? Just one? Or two? WOULD IT MAKE ME A TERRIBLE PERSON?

I haven’t broken my sobriety. Is a relapse necessary to remind me of why I even do this?

I feel guilty writing that sentence. But it’s the truth and there’s no point sharing any of this if I don’t share ALL the elements.

I know I am just tired and feeling low.

I know this will pass.

For now I’m going to accept this is how I feel and that right now questioning my sobriety is Ok for me to do.

I’m going to leave this here. As it is. Because right now I don’t have an answer.

When I write again hopefully I will have an answer.

Hopefully this will pass, and a new lesson will be learnt.

I honestly thought I was done writing about sobriety because I didn’t consider it to be something I struggled with anymore.

…isn’t that funny?

….nurture part 2

The Matriarch

I see her, larger than life

A halo of light curls and a smile for miles

I am small and she tells stories to me

And I can fall into her arms -become lost in arms 

 

I boast to my young followers at school 

“My Nanna knows how to make a fire from sticks”

And when I walk with her, I walk with chin held high

I am her little guardian by her side

 

If she were a bird she would be an owl

Round face and open eyes 

Seeing all and knowing -so much

She answers all my questions 

And shows me how to make magic with my hands

Her voice is law

As we create mischief with feet in ponds 

She booms displeasure and inside I quake 

In awesome fear and yet I am delighted 

I grow into womanhood and cry tears onto dresses

As we sit at the kitchen over steaming cups 

She shakes her curls and reminds me I am young

There is so much life ahead 

 

I fly from nest to nest 

Yet often I fly home to touch onto the familiar soil that is wherever –she- is

I bring her my troubles and heart aches and lay them at her feet for judgement 

Her word is law, and I am a devout citizen

 

It’s strange how many years go by before I notice 

That curly halo turning silver 

Fingers of time have touched your face and left their paths 

Your force now a gentler breeze

Yet still to me you are LARGE and so bright 

Your voice calming the tempest within me

My wildest rages and incessant tears turned to quiet acceptance 

Against the walls of your stolid resolve

 

I get the call and I am told I am needed 

I come because, how could I not?

You are so small…. The chair around you engulfing your tiny frame 

I hold you in my arms and it is I, who envelope you now 

Your halo is slicked and lifeless against your skull 

and you ask me to help restore it’s former glow

I pour warm water over your hair

Your head so small –so-small….

fragile under my fingers

The curls are flat and limp 

My ribs begin to ache 

As I realise you are a spirit inside of a body that is failing 

Your skin hanging off rattling bones 

Your smiles come slower 

And your eyes tell of visions I can’t see 

and you communicate with voices I cannot hear 

as the tv chatters  a shadow lingers in the corners 

whispering of mortality 

I lie awake and beg that your body will not fail you 

I lie awake and beg you won’t leave me

I lie awake and I pray to a god that I don’t believe in

And in moments I am reduced to a child 

Head in your lap as I sob futile tears into the lines of your hands 

I whisper that there has never been a love as constant as mine 

And that for me you will live forever 

Hands on hips and mocking smile 

Halo curls

You will never cease

You will return to your true form 

You always were an owl 

Gliding silently into the night 

 

….TRIGGERS…

Triggers.

You know what I mean right?

That ‘thing‘ that happens. Something someone says, all the things they didn’t say. The fist of anxiety closing in around your heart and making it hard to breath. A fallout with a friend or loved one. Shit day at work. A breakup. Rejection. Dejection. Grief. Loss. Flashbacks. Nightmares. The “event” you can’t talk about to anyone because it hurts too much.  The fact you dropped your super noodles on the floor whilst on your period and its all just a metaphor for how shit life is and the only way to get through this moment – right here, right now; is to get really, drunk. I mean really drunk.

Triggers can be big or small but they still have the same function…

That panicked feeling of “I can’t handle this moment and I need to feel different right NOW“.

Instant gratification, ya know?

So, how do I cope with having “triggering” feelings sober?

I do recall after the initial ‘high’ of deciding to go sober I had a few weeks riding that wave and thinking this was gonna be easy. Peace of cake. I got this. I am a strong sober independent woman and I don’t need alcohol anymore.

Oh – no, no my friend! It’s not that easy. After a while the high will wear off and the hard work will begin.

I was warned about it but I ignored them because I just thought my story would be different. I was wrong.

I have been sober for a few months and been doing really well, yet today I woke up and something was different. I can’t place a finger on the feeling but I just don’t feel right. I am walking into rooms and staring and not knowing why I’m there. I can’t watch TV. I can’t paint. I can’t write songs. I shower and clean myself and look in the mirror and end up placing my head into my hands with a pit inside of me opening up and threatening to overwhelm me.

I feel intensely irritated. I’m having the kinda day where nothing seems to go smoothly. I can’t leave the house without dropping keys, snagging coats on door handles, putting the milk into the sink instead of in the cupboard.

I am restless and I pace.

I can’t concentrate on any conversations.

I really want to drink.

Shit.

That’s the first time this has happened since deciding to go sober.

Shit. Shit.

I call my partner and tell him I need to go out tonight. I want to be social. That’s what I used to do right? I can be social and not drink. That way the coping is kinda the same. Right?

He comes home and I sit in my bedroom getting ready painfully aware of the missing wine glass from the dressing table and I grit my teeth. Before we leave I open the fridge to find an alcohol free beer and I down it. I throw it down my neck like a long loved habit.

We head to the pub and meet with friends. I’m out of the house and engaging in the conversation whilst all the time getting angrier and angrier that my Becks blue isn’t making me feel any different. I keep taking sips and expecting a different result. That’s because it’s fake. The illusion of alcohol; but NOT alcohol. I’m really angry. I squash it but inside I am furious at myself and the useless fake booze.

I really want a drink.

We go to another pub and are joined by more friends. As the night takes its course I become quieter and quieter. Feeling myself slide into the background. Like a camera shot out of focus.

Everyone is nice and furry and soft from booze. Eyes half open as they have slurring conversations which each other and I feel as though they are all in the same bubble and I am on the outside. Inside of the bubble they can understand each other and are connected with each other, yet from the outside all I hear is mumblings and I am lonely.

I am no longer angry. It makes me feel sad and alone.

I make my excuses and leave. I can’t be here. I don’t know why I insisted on this. This isn’t what I want.

As soon as I am out in the night air I take a deep breath. I am alone and it’s cold but there is relief. I take myself to a Chinese takeaway and order some food to take home with me. I drive home briefly noting to myself that THIS is a perk of sobriety.

I take my chow mein and my dog to bed with me. Don’t judge.  Pyjamas, family Guy, chow mein, doggy cuddles and some alone time. Just me and my thoughts.

This is the first time in years I have had to sit with that “feeling” and not drown it out with booze. I hadn’t realised that is what I had been doing but here it was staring me in the face. When the going gets tough, the tough gets drinking.

Sobriety was easy when it was easy. The high can’t last though, eventually old habits rear their ugly heads and you have to deal with them. I no longer knew HOW to cope when I was feeling “triggered”, whilst in a lucid state of being. For so many years I had avoided being alone with my unpleasant thoughts…but if I was going to continue on this path I was going to have to get used to this; and find a new way of coping.

It’s all about re-training the ole brain. Learning new habits. Learning to accept the way you feel and not feel the compulsion to turn to something external to fix it.

Saying, “Ok. This is how I am feeling. What can I do to ride it out until I feel something else? Until I can naturally move on?”

Instead of fighting the feeling, or burying the feeling, or smothering it in alcohol only to have it carry over into hangover the next day. A vicious cycle of ‘not really coping’.

Since then I have been triggered many times. Too many times to count I guess…and each time I rode out the feeling until it passed, the stronger in myself I started to feel. I started to get to know myself in a whole new way. Really sit with my thoughts instead of running from them and I was surprised…I was surprised because there were certain aspects of myself alien to me. All of my reactions and all of my feelings were completely organic and not influenced by substance so occasionally I would say and feel things and afterwards turn it over and over in my mind like a puzzle.

Instead drinking of through triggers, I would decline invites, knowing that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy myself and not feel distant. Often I call someone to just share how I feel, or I write them down. Could be poetry. Could be a song or just a random outburst that doesn’t make sense other than to be what it is. Catharsis.

Catharsis. Release.

It was freeing, liberating. Sometimes difficult but worth it for the lesson learnt afterwards.

Thats what this journey has been about.

I wasn’t really learning when it was ‘easy’. So, I guess I am all the more grateful for the difficult days, because without them I wouldn’t know the strength and the will within me.

Reaching rock bottom can be a glorious thing because then your feet can touch ground  and you can launch yourself back up again. Remake yourself on your own terms.

Thats how I feel now, over sixteen months into sobriety. I feel brand new. Like I get a fresh start. Like finally I get to show the world who I really am.

Theres nothing to hide behind.

Theres nothing to run from.