The Point

Maybe, in those times when you can’t see the point to life, it’s ok to let go of the big picture and zoom right in on the little one:

Right now the point of getting into bed is to get some rest because I’m tired;

Right now the point of having some food is because it tastes good;

Right now the point of existing is because I can.

No More Apologies

I’ve apologised for existing quite a lot, I’ve apologised to boyfriends for having me as a girlfriend, I’ve apologised to my parents for having me as a daughter, I’ve apologised to service providers for taking up their time by availing of the service they offer. I’m not apologising for the space I take up anymore.

Some people look down on you when you’ve attempted to remove yourself permanently from space. They don’t understand why and it’s not unusual to be wary of what you don’t understand, suspicious even. Then you minimise it so it’s less threatening: “they’re just looking for attention”; “they just need toughening up”; “they’re just selfish and self-involved”; ” they’re sick”; “they need a good talking to”. I suspect there is a comfort in feeling like you hold the higher ground. It’s delusional though as they don’t see the threads they themselves hang by or the pegs anchoring their own tent to the ground.

I have a new peg to try out on my own billowing tent – I’m going to attempt to not give a fuck, down with giving a shit what other people think. (I’m going to stop trying not to curse as well, it’s freeing and I like the expression of it). I hearby cut the threads my self-loathing hangs by and with it I throw appeasing people out the tent door.

It’s going to be interesting . . .

I may have to recalibrate myself from the inside out or maybe it’s more of a “fake it till you make it” type of thing but I need to stop losing myself in the set-ups and structures of others and claim a way for myself.

Wish me courage and a bit of swag.

Eleanor Longden

I find courage and spirit such as that shown by Eleanor Longden so inspiring. How she survived 10 years of such torment, emerging the empowered and dauntless person she is today, is a testament to her own heroism and that of mental health sufferers in general. Her story also pays tribute to human solidarity; the people who don’t give up on those whom they care for.

The move away from labelling, stigma and ostracisation, towards compassion, healing and understanding is happening. Yey!

I Have Questions

What are your assumptions?

Oh God of Rationale,

Are you even aware of them?

 

God of “in the real world”

Where is this real world?

How do you know you’re in it

And I’m not?

 

God of “it could be worse”

Why should I feel better

That someone else

Has it worse?

 

God of Judgement

If all puffs are fluffs

And some fluffs are muffs

And all fluffs are tuffs

Can they all be fools?

(As an aside to the God of IQ

Does an education in Venn Diagrams

Give a distinct advantage?)

 

God of Psychological Disorders

How does packaging me

Into a neat labelled box

With my difficulties and suffering

Help me in any way?

 

Or does it just help you?

Does it ease the discomfort I illicit in you?

 

Is this a coping mechanism for you?

Could you possibly have Obsessive Compulsive

Labelling Disorder?

Without this coping mechanism would you find it

Difficult to “emotionally regulate”?

 

Would you have to step down off that pedestal

You’ve put yourself on?

Admit your self-defeating behavior?

Would you have to lose that patronising tone?

Would you feel the need to downgrade my Risk Assessment

So I could buy an Oreo Ice-cream Sandwich

In the hospital shop and eat it in the garden

With my fellow disordered personalities?

Or should I wrap this packaging so tightly

Around my neck that you and some other “objective” gods

Lock me in Critical Care without my consent?

 

(Aisling Reilly 26/06/2016)

Dancing In The Rain

The past year I’ve found myself searching affirmations and quotes for meaning; something to hold on to, something to live by. Most likely a pointless exercise, as I suspect very little is true or all encompassing in every context. In spite of this, our minds (or mine at least) consistently try to simplify complexity, nothing like a lovely label to place things under. The constant battle to understand myself, others and the world. How else to feel any sense of control over our lives? If we know “the rules” we can maneuver within them and everything will be OK . . . . right? . . . . RIGHT!???

And, when I settle on a set of rules, please people, don’t question or pick holes in them, because that makes me very uncomfortable and I will slaughter your ideas to defend mine, or perhaps instead I’ll plummit into the depths of depression and doubt with no ground to stand on, getting to work on the slow slaughter of myself (dramatic much!).

I believe it’s important to be open minded but it’s only human to have unconscious biases and conditioned suppositions. To be truly open minded is always a work in progress, I discover new assumptions in my world veiw every couple of days, I even have to watch for old ones creeping back in. 

Maybe, it’s good enough to just aspire to be as open as you can manage, to learn to empathise with yourself when things confound you, when the rug is pulled from beneath. Feeling threatened by uncertainty is rampantly common. It’s not a flaw unique to one alone, we all struggle to find the light switch in the dark with fumbling fingers. The boy scouts say “always be prepared” but you just can’t prepare for everything, just stick to the practicalities, buy a good rain jacket😉 (and do try to be kind, I think that’s an important one).

This morning the postman caught me dancing around the front room like a woman possessed. Joy owned me for a few short moments as I chose to accept my lack of understanding and just dance, while my puppy tried to chew the slippers off my whizzing feet. The freedom was exhilarating (and I achieved it while stone cold sober).
Hence, my mantra for now is borrowed from Vivien Greene:

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

Not an easy thing to always do, but we can practise in some light showers. Remember, this is not avoidance, it’s embracing pain as part of life and dancing with it. In my case I’m currently only capable of moments of this but sometimes a moment is enough.

Let’s Talk About Suicide

Unless you’ve been there you can’t know the absolute horror, the bleakness of feeling so hopeless that you chose to try and end your life. It doesn’t even present itself as a choice; it’s like treading water in a flooding corridor and the only door with a fanlight, that you just might be able to break through, happens to have a little plaque that reads “Death”. It’s ironically like a survival instinct. If it leads you to air you imagine it might be like an embrace.

I know there are many who won’t understand this, I can’t honestly say I could if I hadn’t been through it but I have never thought of people who die by suicide or survive attempted suicide as cowards. I understand the strength of emotional pain and how it can suffocate hope. It angers me that people shame sufferers of this kind with labels such as weak, cowardly or selfish. The bravest, strongest, most resiliant people I’ve met have been fellow patients in St Patrick’s Mental Health Hospital. They have also been some of the kindest and most compassionate people I had the good fortune to share time with. I suspect it is because they understand what it means to suffer, to battle relentlessly with depression while enduring panic attacks, psychosis for some, while sleep deprived, sometimes for months on end, while stigmatised, not just by strangers or mere acquaintances but by loved ones, and worst of all, self-stigmatised – feeling like a burden, a failure, worthless, pathetic and unlovable.

In the past I did believe no matter how low I sank I would choose life for the sake of my loved ones, I felt a comfort in that, I felt brave.
Then the time came when I felt I’d exhausted every avenue seeking help (G.P.s, charities, counselling, exercise, supplements, medication, psychiatrists, hospital) to no avail. I’d lost the people I feared I would if I didn’t “hold it together” and I found myself in the loneliest place imaginable, that flooding corridor, and I tried to smash that fanlight and escape.

Now I know a little more of bravery, I know getting up again after that and grappling for hope was bravery, I know continuing on everyday through the hell of depression is bravery, especially now I’ve been in that flooding corridor time upon time and know I may well be again, messy and humiliated in a way very few understand. I’ll need to shout and shout for help, from under water. I’ll need to have the presence of mind to find and tell someone if I can’t surface for myself, not just any someone but a someone who can be compassionate and validating in a world of stigma and misunderstanding. Afterwards I’ll need to pick myself and the pieces back up and start again, live with the consequences to my career and relationships and continue on.

Don’t you dare call me a coward.

STIGy-wigMA

We all live in our own worlds, if someone says the world is a scary place, their world is. You might be thinking “what are they on about, why can’t they smell the flowers?” They probably can but who stops to smell the flowers when you’re being chased by a pack of wolves? It’s all context and everyone’s is different. Our genetics, our emotional learning, what parts of the brain were activated or not activated enough throughout our lives (especially in our youth) all create the world we experience.

For those of you who think mental health difficulties are a sign of personal failure (https://www.stpatricks.ie/survey-only-53-agree-people-mental-health-difficulty-are-trustworthy) please consider my wolf pack analogy; It’s a big ask to expect someone to behave like they are not under threat when they’re brain is sending them signals that they indeed are, their world isn’t safe, they are unprotected. How would you fare in a similar situation? Would you “pull it together”? Yet, that is what we mental health sufferers have to learn to do, that is what we have to wade through to recover and currently most of us are doing it in the isolated arena of stigma.

There is a supposition out there that people with mental health difficulties are irrational, unreasonable. We can be at times, just like anyone else, we can also be very cool-headed and logical. Trying to shrug off emotional distress as just hysterics, being over-dramatic or over-sensitive is just shaming people. Plus watch out for karma because your brain functions essentially the same way as our brain does, throw a knob of trauma into your circumstances or a pinch of loss, a dollop of being undermined or unsupported, boil off a coping mechanism or whatever is enabling you to keep feelings and fears buried (maybe you run out of distractions or can’t access them) and viola! your kitchen is on fire.

Joseph Conrad’s quote from Heart of Darkness comes to me sometimes when I feel really lonely, “We live as we dream – alone . . “. Are we all really shut off from each other, dreaming of a connection and intimacy that in reality can only ever be fleeting? An absence we must constantly live with because our taunting minds can dream? Or can we love and care for each other, understand each other, help each other?

We do have the capacity for compassion and empathy, we are able to relate to other people’s emotional burdens, we can try anyway. Sure why not give it a bash, all any of us really have for sure is an undetermined amount of time, let’s spend it together.

Feelings are Coming to Get You!

I tried for a long time to logic away my feelings, I was ashamed of them, I tried to force them out of existence with cold rationale. Feelings are crafty feckers though, they persist, sometimes bubbling up out of nowhere and out of place. It takes a lot of energy to keep burying something you can’t kill, so, one day, you get a little tired or stressed, and up they pop, all mucky and disorientated and pissed off!

The (sometimes unfortunate) fact is that the human brain contains a part that produces emotions, it’s there, we have evolved with it. Humans (and other mammals) need to feel connected, relatively secure and loved to be physically well, otherwise our emotions can cause all kinds of havoc by spouting out various stress hormones. When we feel more peaceful, as a result of serotonin, oxytocin, etc, our bodies run smoother and we’re fuelled up for creativity.

As humans we tend to be more imaginative, innovative and passionate than cold and logical. More fiery than binary “if, then” thinking allows (the scope of that if can’t really be measured after all). Don’t get me wrong, we have a great faculty for reasoning but perhaps it’s unreasonable to pretend feelings can simply be overridden and they don’t have a valid function. It’s like planners and engineers thinking they could just build over floodplains and nature would just comply. If anything, the part of the brain that produces feeling overrides the reasoning part because it’s too slow and that seems to have given us the evolutionary advantage to still be extant today with our fight, flight, freeze or appease responses.

Feelings/emotions are part of who we are and we need to respect them in ourselves and others, work with them as part of life, stop teaching young people to suppress them and start teaching instead how to listen to them, understand and balance them. Criticising yourself or someone else for feeling a certain way won’t achieve anything. Engage and address the feeling – What is it telling you? What do you need? Trying to logic away something that just is – senseless really.

One for Sorrow

None of us chose to be here, we didn’t ask to be born, but here we are regardless. We didn’t chose our childhood experiences, we didn’t chose faulty neurological pathways over healthy emotional cultivation, yet here some of us are, responsible for ploughing new neural tracts with shoddy equipment and pesky compulsions to knock pieces off ourselves. Those of us who appear the weakest are more courageous than many will ever appreciate or recognise.

Suffering visits us all, as the crocodile will tell you, to live is to wait forever and a day in murky waters for something meaty to wander within range of your jaws. For some gloom doesn’t just pop by for tea, it moves into our bedrooms and though we plough away we can’t turn that gloom back into the ground or swallow it whole.

One day you wake up and realise life has been a series of fallen dreams. You sit cold and alone surrounded by the ruins of what once upon a time, in a land achingly similar to this one, were glorious castles. You never truly believed those castles were built for you and you wonder why you’re still foolishly trying to master this ploughing business. All you ever wanted was to belong to the damn CEPA (Chartered and Enthusiastic Ploughers Association), grow some frickin tasty cabbages in your field with adjoining cosy castle!

Sitting among these bricks, crumbling like the scattered pieces of my heart, wondering where to lumber gracelessly to next, an arid desert stretches out before me and I fear those shimmering mirages that will unceremoniously spit me out the other side.

I remember being with you Blathnaid in the garden at Costa Del Pat’s (ssshhh) chasing the giant bubbles you were blowing with your Minions wand and bubble solution. I remember us sitting with Grace in the “crazy” golf course “self-soothing” with some hot chocolate and Fredo bars. How I longed for us all to find peace, I wished I could reach in and save you but that lonely magpie was always hopping into my peripheral vision, scraggly and scruffy looking – where was it’s iridescence? To me you both shone like stars and I wish that one day soon you will meet people who see your shimmer and treasure you for it, most importantly I wish for you to feel worthy of it. I wish that for me too but it feels so very unreal.

It’s human nature to sense the future through the haze of the past. Those who allow hope to paint a new future are called dreamers. I want to be a dreamer again.

Flaws ‘n All

Apparently there are healthy and not-so-healthy versions of perfectionism. Striving for perfection, the psychologisty types say, without attaching your self-worth to it, is broccoli munching behavior. Many of us more anxious creatures fall into the “neurotic” style – being nasty to ourselves about our perceived weaknesses and presuming that they are glaringly obvious to everyone we come into contact with. Like a leech on your butt cheek sometimes we aren’t even aware of some of the beliefs we hold about ourselves. If a friend were to say to you “I expect only perfection from myself and because I never achieve it I hate myself passionately” you’d be making one of those what-the-f**k faces and telling them not to be ridiculous, yet in that shadowy cave below your conscious thoughts a little slimy sucker is happily gorging away.

I think on some mind level, (I have multitudes of them, cos I’m confused mostly class), I have felt that I am only deserving of love if I can be perfect, of course I’m anything but so all sorts of protective (often ironically self-damaging) behaviors ensue. I also suspect that I don’t trust people. To avoid being torn savagely down by them I strive manically and grapefruitlessly to be some foolish idea of, what I reckon is, the “right” way to be or I swing in a plummeting arc the opposite direction and endorse the idea that I’m crap so don’t expect anything from this halfwit.

When I loftily judge the people I love on this rocketing planet (in the future they may also be on Mars or on their way to Mars or orbiting earth for some reason or spiritually removed from space-time via meditation) I see with my haughty eye that they are not perfect. I love them all the same.