Monday, 2 April 2012

The Dam

There comes a point where your grief and pain rises up. It swells and expands, it whips itself up, it froths and rages.
You change your routine, you do anything you can to stem up, to calm it, to force the waters back down.
There comes a point where you fail.
There comes a point where your dam breaks and you stop, mid-attempt to stop it and the shaking takes you over and things slip from your hands and your face is wet before you figure out you're crying. And then the tears cover you, drip everywhere, you can't wipe them away as fast as they come and then you stop caring, you stop trying to stop it and just give in to it, hoping it makes you feel better, hoping it helps, hoping it fixes something, SOMETHING broken inside you.

But it doesn't. The crying stops, eventually, but nothing is better, nothing has been fixed, you've achieved nothing but a basket full of tissues and a damp t-shirt from after you gave up on even the tissues.

Crying doesn't fix my stupid broken womb. But neither does tidying, or reading, or laundry, or obsessively organizing bracelets. It might distract me for a day if I keep it up enough, but I always, eventually, reach the end of the book (or series, if the pain is deep) or the bottom of the laundry basket or run out of things to organize, or just the strength to do it with. And then I even run out of tears. And then I really just....don't know where to go.

7 pregnancies, one baby. The cruel, cruel twist being that with each one I want another baby more and more. I wish I could stop, just stop the cycle of conception and waiting and pain and broken dams, but I can't. I'm just too stupid or too self-destructive to give in and admit defeat.

Later, I might write something about the politics of miscarriage (including some of the stupid things people who've never had one say to you) but right now I'm busy trying to hold myself together and waiting for the patches of salt water on my clothes to dry.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bipolar Blossoms

The cherry blossom holds much symbolism within Japan. According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life. The flowers last for at most a few weeks, but during that time, both the mountains and the cities are full of the delicate pink flowers.

For most of the last decade of my life I've experienced symptoms which baffled me. I was 14 when I first tried to take my life, and while at the time my reasons made sense, they seemed real and valid, and the pain I was in was chronic and unrelenting, trying to understand that state of mind in recent years has been difficult. The logic of my actions eludes me. I don't know if it's just that no adult, having left adolescence, can truly understand that pain. Having filled our lives with necessary mundanities, is it possible to comprehend the way your world falls apart at a harsh word? A perceived slight? A toppling in your social rank? When these things are everything to you, do they hurt just as much as losing your house, or your partner, or your reputation as an adult? I think they must.

I couldn't tell you much about my mental health before then, apart from that the eating disorder was all encompassing and I dismissed everything else as a symptom of that. But after that? There were moods so low it felt like someone had cut all the nerves to my face. I couldn't focus my eyes, I'd go days without talking, without looking up from my schoolbooks, without even sitting with my friends in the library or cafeteria. And then there were times when I felt like I'd been injected with dark energy. I wasn't happy, I wasn't alive, I was just.....everywhere, and everything, all at once. I was going to start a rock band, become a serial killer, an architect, a dancer. Careers and futures flickered through my mind faster than seems possible, but I was always so completely serious about them. Nothing was a whim. I was dedicated, completely and utterly, until the depression crept back and sucked me down again. I wouldn't sleep and then I'd leave the house at 5am, walk halfway across the city, just walk and walk and walk until I found something that seemed worth stopping for. In my later teens, I'd get into hideous relationships, I'd hurt people for reasons I didn't understand, and at one point I wrote a catalogue of poems about an ex-lover that shocked me when I recently looked up my writing account to take them all offline. I was vicious and cruel. I wasn't happy, but I was humming, positively crashing into the walls with dark energy. When I was 18 I came home from a family trip, turned on the computer, applied for any live-in job that was away from London and 3 days later I was on a train to the southernmost tip of the country for what turned into two months of drinking and fucking away the pain I was in.

But you see, at no point did it ever occur to me, or the people around me, that all of these things? The violence and the drinking and the promiscuity and the mad life changes and the dark energy? They were all heavy indicators that I wasn't just depressed. I was having manic episodes. My mania, though it went unrecognised for many years, has always come much closer to killing me than the depression has. Depression didn't put me in strange beds, in strange cars, in strange towns, with strangers. Depression didn't have me goading and fighting with anyone who came near me. Depression didn't have me walking the streets at 5 in the morning, defiantly iPod-deaf and not even trying to watch out for myself. Depression never told me I could fly, or live forever, or take on grown men in a fist fight, or somersault off a wall. Depression didn't have me planning weddings to three people, nor did it see my way to cheating on the third. It didn't tell me that I really could maintain a boyfriend and a fiance, that somehow it would all work out well. Depression was always realistic about life.

This week started out bad. I had a lot of set-backs, there was a lot of pain and a lot of misery and when I was already tired and close to snapping, we got some really bad news. I held it together long enough to make a phonecall to confirm, and halfway through that phonecall something inside me broke. The part of me that had been fighting and holding on just let go, and I sobbed myself to sleep. I woke up at midnight and started writing letters. Writing goodbyes, writing sorry's, writing I-love-you's. I tried to formulate words to leave my daughter. What could I tell her? What wisdom could I impart? How could I fit a lifetime of mothering into the hours between midnight and dawn? How could I warn her to watch out, to not let mental illness sneak up and take her down from behind? How could I explain that I loved her more than life itself, which is why I had to go, because I loved her too much to let her see me like this as she grew up? I loved her too much to risk my illness marking her life. I had promised not to let anyone hurt her, and the only way I could see to keep that promise was to leave.

At 4am, she woke up. I tried for an hour to get her back to sleep but it just wasn't happening. Nothing was working, so eventually I decided that we'd watch some TV and I'd endure the heartbreak of her being awake when I left.
She asked me to put Glee on, so I looked it up and sure enough, there was a new episode. I loaded it up. It was an act that would change our lives.
This weeks episode dealt with a suicide attempt, and the fallout after it. I could not have predicted, at all, that this would be the subject matter, or that the stars would align and force me to see it that morning. At first I was angry. I had made my decision. I didn't want to feel bad about it. I knew I was doing the right thing. Besides, I'd heard all the 'it gets better' bullshit before. Well guess what? When you have a chronic hereditary condition and debilitating mental health problems, it doesn't get better. It gets worse. Every day, every week, everytime you try to reach out and grab at life, it gets worse. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to hear about how selfish I was from people who couldn't understand my decision. I didn't want to hear that I was wrong in the eyes of a society that wouldn't help me no matter how hard I tried. I didn't want any of it. I'd heard it all before, and more, and none of it mattered to me or made a difference.

And then something got through. Through all those awful cliche's, through all the rubbish and judgement and all those actors' menthol-induced-tears, something hooked into me. It sunk in, with this idea, a small idea, but an idea nonetheless. I hadn't done anything yet. This, all of this, in my life, this is not what I'm living for. This is not the rest of my life. There is so much I haven't done yet. There is so much I'd pushed aside to make way for other people's needs, other peoples dreams. How could I be so selfless as to end my life for the sake of not hurting my child, when I wasn't willing to be selfish enough to make my life worth living in the first place? How could I hate myself for burdening my husband but not hate him for giving up my live, dreams, and future for the sake of his? Why was it always my responsibility to do the hard thing, the painful thing? Why couldn't I, just once, be irresponsible and happy? Why couldn't I, for once, put myself first?

So I did.

I left my house early that morning and I spent all day etching a permanent reminder on myself. A reminder that the mania is short lived. That it blossoms and dies and sometimes it is beautiful and sometimes it is terrible but it is never forever. That I am strong and solid and crooked and out of me, beautiful things flower and grow and I have made beautiful things before and I will make them again. It is also a reminder that if at any point in the future I feel that down again, that desperate and low, there is always an alternative. It doesn't have to fix anything, sometimes it can be crazy and stupid and expensive but if I always try to find an alternative and take it, then maybe, just maybe I'll outlive this. Maybe I'll see my baby have babies. Maybe I'll see those babies have babies. Maybe I'll get to tell those babies the story of the day I chose a reminder that death is always near, rather than death itself.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A shitty month in a lifetime of shitty months.

So, January was shit.

I made the decision to come off the contraceptive pill, because my migraines? They were *insane*. I was having between 2 and five a week, often with no break days inbetween. They definitely weren't rebound headaches because I have never actually been given proper migraine drugs to treat my migraines. I've been managing on co-dydramol, which I've had to limit because I need it to manage my joint pain too.
I was also having a hard time remembering to take the pill. My mental health is not all it could be and between sleep lags and just not being 100% present and accounted for in my own life, I knew I could not take it responsibly.
My sex life has not been amazing recently, by any means. Multiple illnesses have wiped me out, and Mr A has been doing nightshifts, so The Beast has been sleeping in our bed a lot, so that she sleeps better.
And yet, somehow, I still managed to get pregnant.
And of course, because I'm me, it didn't stick.
So while I was whinging on facebook about my hideous cold that went to my chest, what I was really crying over was pregnancy number 5 and its swift departure from my uterus.

But I couldn't dwell too long. I had my Disability Living Allowance tribunal on the 31st, I had to figure out a way to make it there and survive the ordeal.
It was.....horrifying. My appointment was for 3:40pm, we didn't go in until close to 4:30 if not after, and in the interim I got so anxious that I was freezing, shaking and sobbing in the waiting room while my poor friend and advocate sat beside me. I held a menthol scented tissue over my mouth the entire time I was in the tribunal because when I took it away I hyperventilated and got dizzy, and almost as soon as I got in there they told me they didn't think my case had enough medical evidence so they wanted to adjourn in order to collect more. I held it together until I left the room when I fell into a wall and broke down in anxious sobbing again. Eventually they called me back to confirm that they were adjourning for more evidence, and worst of all, that they would be sending a doctor to my house to examine me. At that point my world caved in and I just needed to be out of that building. I nearly collapsed in the lift again, dizzy and nauseated.
There is nothing, nothing I can imagine that they could do that would be worse than sending someone to my house, to examine me. I feel sick just thinking about it. My house is my safe place. My house is where I can be sick, where I can hide. They are literally invading my sanctuary and violating me inside it. They couldn't have come up with something more designed to make me want to close the whole case if they tried.
I got home that night and spent hours in shock, freezing cold and shaking, desperately suicidal. I honestly thought I was going to have to go to A&E and admit myself to keep safe. Luckily some good friends were around and verbally held my hand until the shock started to fade and they distracted me like the fabulous people they are.

You'd think, given that that's already quite a lot of shit for one month, that it would be over, right? No. My husband announces the next morning that we don't have enough money to move. Not devastating, I hear you say? Actually, it is. The flat we live in is wildly unsuitable to our needs, and I'm miserable, and moving was the only thing giving my near-future any structure. I *needed* the idea of moving to keep me putting one foot in front of the other. And now it's gone.
Simultaneously, the British Government were busy passing what I like to call the 'Fuck those dirty cripples' law, which is so horrific and vicious in its nature and so unrelenting in its hatred of disabled people that actually knowing that it's real and not something from a history book takes my breath away.

I am physically and emotionally battered. I feel like I've climbed out of a car-wreck and I'm wandering around the roadside, dazed.

January did not, in any way, start my year off well.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

There are a lot of words.

Mostly they are coming out of my daughter's mouth. When I started this blog she was a squawking lump of refluxy, giggling fat. You could roll her across a room. Now, she has opinions. And good lord, don't we just know it. She will tell you, at length, what the other parent did that day that really pissed her off (although when she doesn't know a word, she replaces it with babble and outrage). She will delight in realising that she knows the word for something when we see it and that delight will lead to ten minutes of joyful crowing about the dog/cat/cake/bus/whatever. I can ask her a question and get a response. She can articulate her needs in more than just gestures and screeches. Words are amazing.

For the first time in her life I'm really enjoying being a mother. It's a good feeling.

However, everything else right now, it just feels bad. I'm so depressed most days that it chews at my edges. I cry every day about how bad a mother I feel I am, about my failings. Sometimes the crying is big, chest-shivering, full-body crying. Sometimes it's that silent, tearless, unsatisfying crying that happens when I'm so exhausted by a situation that my body can't even drum up the energy to cry properly.
I'm better now at recognising the signs of mania. The problem is that by taking pre-emptive action against mania, I trigger bouts of what I call 'riptide depression'. Little whirlpools of depression that arrive fast and fuck you up. The thought process goes thus: (real example from tonight)
While surfing the web: "Oooh, instructions on how to make herbal soap! That looks like so much fun, and I have some ice cube trays that would make perfect moulds! Maybe I should look into that."
While searching for a place to buy glycerin soap: "Wow, this could be a really fun project, maybe I could sell them? Or make loads of Christmas presents in preparation for Xmas '12! It would be SO organised, this is a great idea!"
After adding glycerin soap to my amazon basket, while looking for moulds: "What am I doing? I have 4 unmailed out orders, 6 orders waiting for me to start them, four unfinished personal projects, and a few dozen projects waiting to be put on Etsy. Why am I trying to give myself more to do? Why am I collecting a new hobby? OH. Because I'm manic. Right. Let's put a stake in this time-vampire right now."
Immediately, we hit the riptide: "Yeah, because I'm such a fucking idiot I can't even have a hobby, or buy soap. Why do I bother doing anything? I never finish. I'm an idiot. I'm a stupid, stupid, useless person. Why did I even think that was a good idea? Like anyone would want some shitty soap I made myself anyway. Like anyone wants to buy anything I make. They DON'T, that's why I don't make any money. And here I am, when we've just had a big fight about budgets, trying to waste more of his money buying materials for another fucking project that would only get forgotten about and half finished like every other fucking stupid thing in my stupid, pathetic life."

This happens at least three or four times I week. I'm swimming along, quite happily, then I over-reach, hit a riptide, and drown in self-loathing. Every time. I really desperately need my psychiatrist appointment to come through. I need someone to listen to me and help me. I'm trying to sort my life out but I feel like nothing I do makes a dent in the pile of shit it's turned into.
Some people on a forum belong to wanted to help me so much that they got together a lump sum of money and donated it to me, so I can hire a cleaner, because the place is such a mess I can't cope with it. I cried for days with gratitude. I looked up cleaners, and I sent one email out but never got a reply. After that I lost confidence for a few weeks, but finally the shame of the money sitting there made me move, and I sent out another email to a different company. But I mis-typed my phone number and so they sent me an email instead, but now I'm so embarrassed that I can't even type my own phone number right that I can't contact them. How stupid will they think I am? And when they see my flat....the shame of the state we live in....I can't cope with it. I can't accept help because my shame is so huge. It makes my fingers heavy and stops my hands moving and make my chest close in panic when I even try to move forward. world involves so much shame. Shame over my mental health. Shame that I feel ashamed for being crazy. Shame for how I 'allow' my mental health to affect my family's lives. Shame for allowing my daughter to live in a dirty home. Shame for taking charity from my friends. Shame that even when people give me money to help me do something, I'm too pathetic to get it done. Shame that I can't even tell my friends about this because I worry they'll think I'm not grateful. Shame for being a bad businesswoman, and wife, and mother. Shame that everyone thinks I'm intelligent, and loving, and funny, and strong, and basically doing an ok job, when the reality is nobody really understand how very, very bad things are. Shame that I'm such a good liar that nobody even realises they're seeing a lie.

There are a lot of words, but 'shame' seems to be the only one I see right now.